Little Miss Sunshine
It's the second Oscar movie that I've watched this season and I must say I'm not disappointed, no sir. And though Little Miss Sunshine is in a completely different genre to the more deep Babel, Little Miss Sunshine is also about plumbing the depths, nevertheless rising again.
LMS first knocks the windbags of pretension straight out. And in a comic bout with established notions of winning and losing, guile and sincerity, happiness and depression, what is right and what is not, it floors all its opponents and brings them up again, redefining them...
A dysfunctional family and a dysfunctional Volkswagon bus make a cross country road trip across America so that the baby of the family, young Olive (Abigail Breslin) can take part in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty contest. Her pushy father, Richard Hoover (Greg Kinnear) , is a motivational speaker. He would probably be the typical American go-getter except he's such a loser. Olive's mother (Toni Collette) is a hyperventilating smoker who has been in a relationship that's failed and her brother Frank (Steve Carell) is the pre-eminent proust scholar in the United States, gay and has attempted suicide. Olive's step brother Dwayne (Paul Dano) is obsessed with hating all, not talking and going to the air force academy. Not the least of this entertaining family is coke-snorting, porn-loving Granpa (Alan Arkin).
And you think things can't get worse? Of course they can. And they do - the metaphorical ride is rough as is the literal -there's death to contend with, hypocrisy, betrayal, bankruptcy and disappointment. But the comic rules.
From cheap porn jokes to more subtle humour, LMS guides you through common perceptions of 'tragedies' into a fresh, clean look at life. In the genre of Benigni's Life Is Beautiful, LMS is a little less simplistic as it packs in a full measure of the foibles of modern day society as a loose veneer that the movie only goes on to rip off.
The champ of this movie is little Olive ( A fine performance for one so young) the real sunshine - her engrossing guilelessness, sincerity and sensitivity childlike and yet so mature, makes you want to think this kid has great potential. It only matters that you enjoy what you do, not winning not losing, the movie seems to say, also through Alan Arkin, surely an understated performance, but deserving an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor? I dunno. And I must admit, despite their obvious disintegration, the Hoover family is rather endearing in the way they stick up for each other.
The movie's strongest message is, however, for the pretenders - people like the beauty contest judge and Richard Hoover who have their inflexible rules on what is right and wrong, what one must do or not. And the message is, quite in the tongue in cheek tenor of the movie - Stuff it!
With a water-tight script, great screenplay ( This Oscar is truly well-deserved) and dialogue, this movie's almost as good as it gets. I have not watched Departed yet, but it will have to try darn hard to convince me that it did not unfairly take away the Oscar from Little Miss Sunshine. Need I say, then, MUST WATCH?!