I endorse Little Miss Sunshine.
This endorsement comes after the fact that I mocked
the bidding war at Sundance, where Little Miss Sunshine
received the biggest distribution deal
the fest had ever seen, and despite the cloying theme music that initially turned my stomach. My recommendation also takes into account that Michael Arndt's screenplay is stuffed with plot twists way beyond the limits of credibility. The directorial debut by filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris is by no means perfect. That said, Little Miss Sunshine
is smart and funny and, at times, delightfully caustic; the final rousing scene (the very one that got the film a standing ovation at Sundance) made me laugh so hard tears came to my eyes.
Little Miss Sunsine is about a middle-class family from New Mexico who find themselves on an improbable road trip--in an old VW bus with a fussy clutch--to a child beauty pageant in a San Diego hotel. Eight year old Olive (Abigail Breslin) is a last minute contestant. The little girl sports a long pony tail, wears red cowboy boots and enormous round glasses. Her chances of winning a pageant are foretold from her first awkward appearance.
The entire clan are well developed, surprisingly real, and for the most part, likable. In addition to the stressed out, overworked mother parental unit (Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear), this group includes a suicidal, gay uncle who happens to the country's foremost Proust scholar (Steve Carrell), a cocaine-snorting, leather-vest-wearing grandfather (Allan Arkin), and an angry teenage son (Paul Dano) who has embraced the teachings of Nietzsche and categorically stopped talking.