Little Miss Sunshine
July 26, 2006
David T. Friendly
Summary: Seven-year-old Olive Hooper dreams of winning the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ beauty pageant. To achieve this, Richard and Sheryl Hooper, along with her suicidal brother, Richard’s cocaine-addicted father and their son Dwayne (who has taken a vow of silence) decide to travel from Albuquerque to California in their rundown Volkswagen. However, they encounter a few problems on the way, including the news that the family is going bankrupt. During the dysfunctional family’s journey, they learn actually how important they are to each other.
My Favourite Scene: During their journey, the Hoopers spend the night in a motel. The following morning they discover that Olive’s grandfather is dead. While in the mortuary, the Hoopers are told they cannot leave the body. Consequently, they decide to do something extremely unorthodox. They sneak the body through a window and put it in the boot of their car.
What I find so humourous about this scene is how the grandfather has not even been dead 24 hours and instead of grieving, they are carrying his body out of a window and placing it in the car! The underlying message in this scene is that regardless of the circumstances, the family would get Olive to the pageant on time. It demonstrates the ludicrous lengths that people would go to, to make their children happy.
My Favourite Quotes:
Richard: Everyone, just... pretend to be normal.
Dwayne: You know what? F*** beauty contests. Life is one f****** beauty contest after another.
My Thoughts: I love that this film is based around a classic American beauty pageant. At the end of the film, when they finally reach California, no-one (except for Sheryl) wants Olive to perform. I think this reflects how the family felt detached from society and its expectations. However, Olive performed anyway and her dance was not quite suitable. Eventually the whole Hooper family ended up on stage making fools of themselves - but it was a great scene, because it showed that they just did not care what anyone thought. Everything in the beauty pageant was so fake and the Hoopers realised that. Although they did not fit in with this world of glitter and makeup, they were happy.
Another element which I thought made this film very strong was the contrast in the family between the beginning and the end. At the start of the film, each member of the family lived a very separate life. They were not connected, but by the end they were all dancing around on the stage - to the audience’s horror! The journey of ups and downs had brought them closer together.
I enjoyed all the performances, but particularly Dano’s (Dwyane) and Carell’s(Frank). I was surprised to watch Carell playing such a role. His character was suicidal and humiliated, but the family’s eventful trip put a smile back on his face - and I think Carell pulled it off well. There were plenty of cringe-worthy scenes. Calling Frank’s meeting in the petrol station uncomfortable would be something of an understatement...
I think by end I had felt every emotion under the sun. For each character, there were moments when I hated them, and moments when I loved them. This film is very original, which is something difficult to come by. The idea of a family taking a trip is so simple, but the clash in the characters’ personalities makes the film interesting and extremely funny. It is impossible for one to not have a smile on their face by the end of Little Miss Sunshine. It really is the ultimate feel-good film.