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Non-Review Review: Little Miss Sunshine

I think everyone has family issues. They’re a bunch of people in your life who you never chose to be close to you. And you’re stuck with them, for better or worse. I think that’s why Little Miss Sunshine strikes the chord it does. That, and it’s an astonishingly good film.

"Everyone pretend to be normal."

"Everyone pretend to be normal."

Using the simple premise of a cross-country drive by an extended family – including a failing life coach (Greg Kinnear), his long-suffering wife (Toni Collette), her suicidal academic brother (Steve Carrell), the family’s grumpy non-conformist grandfather (Alan Arkin), the older, mute son (Paul Dano) and Olive, the potential beauty queen (Abigail Breslin) – the movie provides us with one of the most memorable depictions of a modern family on screen. The majority of the characters are very well realised by a smart script that always has a smile on its face. We don’t really get to know much about the matriarch of the family (aside from the fact she seems to hold the clan together), but Collette is as strong as ever and continues to be one of the best actresses working today.

A comedy drama lives or dies by the strength of its ensemble and the actors here deliver in spades. Kinnear is his usual solid self (and does well in what is the closest the movie has to a lead role), Toni Collette performs well in the movie’s only underwritten lead, Steve Carrell proves that he is a highly talented supporting actor (though the jury is still out on him as a lead), Alan Arkin is typically no nonsense and demonstrates why Hollywood needs more roles for older performers and Paul Dano demonstrates why Paul Thomas Anderson considered him a capable performer to hold his own on screen opposite Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood. Watch out for a whole selection of readily identifiable television faces in tiny supporting roles throughout the film.

Despite the cynicism found in the movie – not least of which in its entirely justifiable skewering of the beauty pageant circuit – it does remain both sweet and honest. A refreshingly twisted sense of humour stops it from ever becoming sacchrine or seeming overly manipulative. A visual flair and a magical score help the movie seem grand and large, despite the intimacy of it all. There are some magnificent shots of our merry band in their yellow van crossing the countryside and driving down the motorway. It looks stunning.

My mom considers the movie to be the best of 2006. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it is the best road movie in quite some time and worth a look, if you’re looking something just a little off-beat.


Little Miss Sunshine is the first major movie from music video directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. It stars Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets, Flash of Genius), Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding, The Sixth Sense), Steve Carrell (Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin), Paul Dano (There Will be Blood), Abigail Breslin (No Reservations) and an Academy Award-winning Alan Arkin (Gattaca, Grosse Point Blank). It also features cameos from Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle, Breaking Bad), Wallace Langham (Veronica’s Closet, CSI), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), Matt Winston (John from Cincinnati) and Dean Norris (Breaking Bad). It was released in the USA on 18th August 2006 and in the UK and Ireland on 8th September 2006.

2 Responses

  1. […] Non-Review Review: Little Miss Sunshine « the m0vie blog […]

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