Saturday, November 11, 2006

Little Miss Sunshine

Jen and I went out on a date last night—dinner and a show. The dinner was a Manhattan and French fries and the show, Little Miss Sunshine.

I loved the movie, and not just because it was a rare opportunity to see a non-animated film in a theater without not just our kid, but any kids.

The writing was superb. The screenwriter brilliantly captured those wincingly painful moments of interfamily communication, miscommunication, and non-communication. The characters were perhaps more than ever-so-slightly over-the-top, but by exaggerating their foibles, they were rendered, I thought, even more believable.

I was also impressed with the direction, which I thought used color and shot framing to illustrate all those moments in striking and often hilarious detail.

I laughed out loud a lot of times: when the Alan Arkin character was giving his grandson the advice to “fuck a lot of women,” when the mute teenaged son scribbled on his notepad the advice to his sister to “go hug Mom,” when little Olive does her stripper-influenced routine for the Little Miss Sunshine pageant.

But I also got choked up plenty, too: when Olive hugs her brother after he learns his dreams of being a pilot will be dashed by his color-blindness, when failed motivational speaker Greg Kinnear’s dad gives him props for at least trying something; and the last scene as the yellow VW van rolls down the highway into the sunset.

I know some reviewers have accused the movie of being some sort of indie film 101-type exercise: a road picture with quirky characters thrown together by circumstances who come, through those circumstances, to find love for each other and themselves, and sure, I guess that’s a fair complaint.

Still, the film never goes all Hollywood on us; the dead grandpa doesn’t return to life; Olive doesn’t take first place in the beauty pageant; the losers don’t suddenly become winners.

But they do, at least, learn to play a different game.


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