Susan Granger reviews “Little Miss Sunshine”
The undisputed hit of the Sundance Film Festival was this wry, raunchy, adult-aimed comedy that follows the delightfully dysfunctional Hoover family as they make their way through the Southwest in a broken-down VW bus so that Olive (Abigail Breslin) can compete in the annual Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in Redondo Beach, California.
Sweet-natured Olive is runner-up in the Albuquerque regional so when the winner gets disqualified, shes eligible and everyone adores the plump, bespectacled seven year-old.
Theres her tiresome Refuse to Lose dad (Greg Kinnear), an overbearing motivational speaker, and her harried, long-suffering mother (Toni Collette) who has just taken custody of her own suicidal brother (The 40 Year-Old Virgin Steve Carell), a renowned Proust scholar whose gay partner just dumped him for his professional rival. Also on-board are Olives sullen older brother (Paul Dano), a Nietzsche-obsessed student who professes to hate everyone and has taken a vow of silence until hes old enough to become a fighter pilot, and her foul-mouthed Grandpa (Alan Arkin), an irascible curmudgeon who was thrown out of a retirement home because of his heroin habit.Their chaotic, frustration-filled road trip is the brainchild of first-time screenwriter Michael Arndt and veteran husband-and-wife music-video and commercials team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who deftly maneuver the quirky clan through disharmony, disappointments, disasters, even death, demonstrating how life is, after all, one beauty contest after another so you should follow your passion wherever it leads.
The ensemble cast is top-notch, but it falls to guileless Abigail Breslin to anchor the edgy satire through the gaudy grotesquerie of the unfolding pageant. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Little Miss Sunshine is an enchanting, engaging 8, proving that even the most fallible of families is the strongest bulwark against adversity. Its a real crowd-pleaser.