Monday, January 4, 2010

#402: Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Directors: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Paul Dano & Alan Arkin

Uncle Frank comes to live with his sister Sheryl’s family after a suicide attempt. On the same day, Sheryl’s daughter Olive gets news that she’s been accepted to the Little Miss Sunshine contest in Redondo Beach, her husband Richard is trying to sell a self-help book, Richard’s father is snorting cocaine while coaching Olive, and Olive’s brother Dwayne is refusing to talk. Because of Nietzsche. It’s decided that the only way Olive can participate in the contest is if the whole family piles into the VW bus and they make the drive together.

It is frightening how much talent is featured in this film. While Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin are veterans of the film industry, Steve Carell was a relative unknown when he was cast for this role. It was only during production that he became famous through both NBC’s The Office and The 40 Year Old Virgin. Meanwhile, this film boosted the careers of both Paul Dano and Abigail Breslin, both of whom were relatively unknown (despite Breslin’s large role in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs at the age of six).

The entire film balances on the shoulders of young Olive, who is learning the complexities of life. Sheryl and Richard constantly argue over how much information Olive should be given; should she know that her uncle attempted suicide? Should she know that he’s gay? Should she eat ice cream? With these choices of parenting, how will she end up? Is it safe to always tell the truth, or to cover it up? Once the film is over, we can have a nice big sigh of relief, because in the end, we learn that it’s best to just relax.

This is one of the most refreshing comedies that have been released in the recent past, and possibly one of the best of all time. Oh, and the soundtrack is pretty awesome too.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):

  • Abigail Breslin wore a fat suit for the part of Olive.
  • Originally written as an East Coast road trip movie from Maryland to Florida, it was shifted to a journey from New Mexico to California due to shooting issues.
  • On July 25, 2006 Fox Searchlight Pictures invited VW bus owners to a screening of Little Miss Sunshine (2006) at Vineland Drive-In theater in City of Industry, California. 65 VW buses were present at the event.
  • All of the girls acting as participants in the "Little Miss Sunshine" beauty pageant, except Abigail Breslin, were veterans of real beauty pageants. They wore the same costumes, including hair and makeup, and performed the same talent routines as they had in their real-life pageants.
  • The production crew made sure Abigail Breslin really was listening to music in her headphones to keep her from hearing Alan Arkin's profanity-laced scenes.
  • Though they are supposed to be mother and son, the difference of age between Toni Collette and Paul Dano is just 12 years.

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