“You know what? F**k beauty contests. Life is one f**king beauty contest after another. School, then college, then work,” Paul Dano’s character in Little Miss Sunshine says at one point in the movie. And isn’t that the truth? The rat race to win at something or the other is never ending. Life is one obstacle piled onto the next, until you get to the end of it. That is a rather morbid way of looking at things, but it is also realistic. However, life’s problems shouldn’t get in the way of enjoying and celebrating some of its ordinary and extraordinary moments. The Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris directorial is exactly about that.
The film stars a bevy of familiar, talented faces, including the likes of Steve Carell, Toni Colette, Greg Kinnear, Abigail Breslin, Paul Dano and Alan Arkin. So you already know that the acting is going to be tight and subtle, just how it should be. Thankfully, the funny script of Michael Arndt, who has also penned the beloved Toy Story 3 helps. The narrative revolves around the dysfunctional, quirky Hoover family, which is filled with all sorts of characters. A teenage son who reads Nietzsche and has taken a vow of silence (Dano), a little girl who wants to compete in a beauty pageant (Breslin), a drug addict grandfather (Arkin), a smoking, hyper mother (Colette) and a suicidal heartbroken Proust professor (Carell).
Clearly, half your job is done when you have an interesting mix of characters who have a voice of their own. But, what adds the spark here is the brilliant ensemble cast, none of whom is out of sync. Carell is appropriately snarky, Kinnear is as frustrating as he is meant to be. But the actor who steals the film through one sequence is Dano. Paul Dano, who was fairly young at the time of filming, showed his potential when he has an outburst post discovering his character suffers from colour blindness and could therefore not pursue his sole ambition of flying planes. Dano is angry, hurt, and broken that his vow of silence meant nothing at the end of it all. That all his hard work and study was pointless. There is also a sweet sibling bond that the makers show hereafter, between Breslin and Dano’s characters.
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Though earlier dismissed as an indie movie, Little Miss Sunshine went on to mint a whopping $101 million of its $8 million budget. The movie not only smashed the ticket counter, but proved to be critically successful as well. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, with one for Best Picture. Thus proving that a large part of why some movies work more than the others is not solely because it is made by a big studio and has a great A-list cast (surely that helps), but due to honesty of intention. If you serve appropriately what you had set out to do, sooner or later, the project will be acknowledged in some way. Lucky then, in Little Miss Sunshine’s case, it managed to win over all kinds of people across the board.
You can stream Little Miss Sunshine on Disney Plus Hotstar.