Little Miss Sunshine (J.Dayton & V.Faris, 2006)

I always have a soft spot for low budget, indie movies, I felt they certainly deserved unbiased viewing rather than most of the Hollywood half-baked products. The feel-good Little Miss Sunshine is such example, it is widely labelled as a road movie with dark comedy elements. it is ironic to note that only in the world of escapism, the harshness of life in the face of depression, suicide, financial difficulty can be depicted as comical matters.

This movie involves a dysfunctional family that travels interstates trying to take Olive to participate in a beauty pageant. The route seems easy on the map, as formulaic as it is, the journey turned out parallel to life which is full of hurdles. Dysfunction how? How about during family dinner, a discussion with little girl Olive on why her uncle decides to “check out early” i.e. suicide? Or the granddad advised his grandson to bed as many chicks as he can? Or dad allows his son not to speak to other beings until he achieves his goal? The essence of the script is witty, funny and every so often, original. Great performance from the ensemble talented casts as follows.
- Olive (Abigail Breslin), the centre of afore-mentioned Hoover family, she is an average looking, lack of self-confidence but absolute adorable little girl who dreams of partake in a beauty pageant, her wish is granted when she is qualify for the Little Miss Sunshine Children Beauty Pageant.

- Alan Arby is a heroin snorting, crudely hilarious as the foul-mouthed cynical grandfather of Olive. He has been behind closed door teaching and guiding Olive to perform at the beauty pageant (More on that performance later). Alan gets to deliver most of the awesome lines.

- Greg Kinnear is Olive’s dad, Richard, a glass-half-full-of-water kinda guy whose career as a motivation speaker does not seems to bode well as his audience are half empty (or half full; *wink*). He is desperately trying to launch his 9 Steps to Success Program but to no avail. He will rams his "9 Steps to Success" down other people's throat whenever the occasion fit.
- Olive’s mother, Sheryl (Toni Collette), a seemingly distress housewife trying to hold up the family.
- Paul Dano played Olive’s Brother, Dwayne, who is a Nietzsche’s follower. He is so persistent to become a test pilot in the military that he made a silence vow until he reach his ambition.
- Olive's gay uncle, Frank (a poker-faced Steve Carell) just released from hospital after a fail attempted suicide. He is a Proust scholar whose fellow gay lover dump him and then being kicked out from his job.

As the cash-strapped family rules out travel by air, The whole family embarks on the road with a Volkswagen T2 Microbus. This over the hill yellow VW-Van is in all sort of problems, its gearbox will only engage in gear 3 onwards, its honk cannot stop honking and one of its sidedoor fell out. Just like other road movies, Along the way to the destination, the family members face some sorts of quirky problems and this is their own journey toward self-revelation.
When the movie comes to the children beauty contest segment, it is like a freak sideshow with midget, Children with thick make up with revealing swimsuit gave me huge creep. The self-doubt Olive is the only one appear normal there. As for frantic finale, without reveal how it end, actually I have a huge morality issue to it. I mean what Olive performs at the beauty pageant contest is outrageous, and yet their parents condone it. I would think when she grow up thinking back what she has done during the beauty pageant contest, she will be horrified by it, blaming their parents for condoning her act. The reason for her mother to allow Olive perform on the stage, is let Olive be herself, but then there are many ways for her to express herself, to become the real of her, not to mention she is still a child. I can understand the theme of family togetherness; I can understand what the moviemaker tries to convey the message that no matter what happen, family is thicker than blood, they are going to stick together despite what have happen. But this is too much. I guess the Hoover family is not called as a quirky, dysfunctional family for nothing.
This movie is definitely not suitable for children although the little girl is the central character. Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette shine as husband and wife provides some heart into their performance that pull the string in the family. But the one that catches my attention is Olive's granddad who absolutely bosses this movie. If you like road movie such as Little Miss Sunshine, I would recommend the obscure indie movie called Transamerica, about a man (acted by Felicity Huffman) going to perform male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.
* On the sidenote, this movie introduced me to folk rock singer cum songwriter Sufjan Stevens and the indie rock group from Denver, DeVotchKa, whose wonderful soundtracks fit into the movie seamlessly.

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List