Friday, February 16, 2007

Movie Chat: Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

So, I can see why some cine-buffs are disappointed that this movie was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. And I can also see why someone who rented this movie because it received a nomination might be a little disappointed with it. It's a small movie and I don't really think it's all that original. It's essentially National Lampoon's Vacation with the Griswolds replaced by a family with indie movie quirks - a father who's an inspirational speaker who needs inspiration, a son who's taken a vow of silence, a grandad who's addicted to heroin, a gay uncle who just failed a suicide attempt, a slightly nerdy little girl with a beauty pageant obsession.

I didn't really buy any of the quirky family stuff - that is, I didn't buy their quirks individually (I thought the son's entire arc was entirely unconvincing, for instance) and, more importantly, I never really bought them as a genuine family unit (as opposed to Vacation, where the "wacky" family dynamic feels like the real thing).


The movie still kind of worked for me and there were moments that I thought were really quite nice. For instance: the look of satisfaction on Steve Carell's face after he's helped everyone push-start the family's VW bus perfectly captured the way that succeeding at a brainless, exhausting physical task can sometimes (momentarily) keep emotional and spiritual depression at bay. It's a tiny moment, but it's so true to life that it makes me want to forgive the parts of the movie that seem like they were dreamed up by screenwriters who have seen too many indie movies about dysfunctional families.

I also give the filmmakers a lot of points for not treating Greg Kinnear's character as harshly as I feared they might.

Anyway, I admired the movie's generosity enough that I was willing enough to let down my defenses and enjoy the uplifting ending on its own terms.

I'm less forgiving of the filmmaker's failure to give Toni Collette all that much to do: I liked her (along with everyone else in the cast), but her talent seems wasted here.

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