The most visited genre in film may be the family drama. Itís probably popular to produce because itís something everyone can relate to Ė having a family with issues not fit for public consumption and seeing them resolved in two hours with some great acting thrown in for good measure, hopefully. Whether itís got some laughter during the course of events or not, itís getting quite difficult to come up with original ideas that force a family to change, or work together, or learn about each other, in an entertaining fashion.
And now, hereís Little Miss Sunshine. Youíre not quite sure what youíre in for during the Sundance-touting trailer as you see snippets of a family dinner. You know they are going to be quirky, based on their remarks and the quick cuts. You also know the acting will be dependable because of the stellar cast, including Greg Kinnear
, Toni Collette
, and Alan Arkin
. Plus, itís got a cute girl with glasses you know youíre going to cheer on because the title is based on her. Article continues below
Combining these reliable creative forces with outstanding dialogue and appropriate timing, Little Miss Sunshine is an engaging experience. Co-directors Jonathan Dayton
and Valerie Faris
not only make a long dinner scene interesting, but an interminable drive through a visually boring landscape also never gets old.
Little Miss Sunshine is the road trip story of how little seven-year-old Olive gets to a competition sheís been trying to reach for years, the titular subject. Normally each member of the family has their own self-centered focus, but Oliveís achievement of acceptance takes precedence and they pile into the car to spout wit aplenty and deal with themselves.
Everyone has their own fault or weakness, of course, and each comes to light in its turn, with an intelligent grace instead of an easy resolution. For instance, when Richardís (Kinnear) book deal does not come across as planned, his verbally horny father (Arkin) gives a brief acknowledgement of his efforts, which is stilted due to lack of practice but no less sincere. Richardís response matches it, quietly but no less thankfully. The entire film has this wonderful balance of handling emotional issues without ever getting precious or melodramatic.
Olive (Abigail Breslin
) is thankfully not the perfect child, either. One of the first comments she makes is to her uncle, who recently attempted suicide (Steve Carell
) because of an unrequited, homosexual, affair, which she calls silly. Also, instead of making her say something cute, she simply places her arm around her brother's shoulder to make him rejoin the family after an outburst.
Little Miss Sunshine is enjoyable because itís moving without being pedantic, itís funny while being honest about how family members treat each other, and it takes everything about being human with a smart affection sorely lacking in current filmmaking.