So I rarely go out to see movies in the theater but when a friend, whose taste I trust (and I don't have many friends like that) suggested that I go see Little Miss Sunshine, I obediently went. Score another big point of trust Leighton, thanks for the recommendation.
Little Miss Sunshine follows the story of a family of four, an uncle and a grandpa on a trip to go to one of the many "Little Miss" pageants that, quite candidly, pollute our society. I recently wrote a blog post (see Ben, I can learn!!) that included a discussion I had with my daughter Zoe about how magazines at the grocery store check out counter do one thing very successfully: convince beautiful women all across this great nation of ours that they are not beautiful.
These competitions find strong allies in these magazines. Regardless, the story follows the family as they drive across country and ultimately enter into a beauty contest.
The story is beautifully written by Michael Arndt and it's his first movie, it appears according to IMDB. By the way, let's face it if the story isn't beautifully written, the best acting and special effects in the world wouldn't save it. I just wish, really hard by the way, that the writers, the true stars of Hollywood would get the credit they deserve.
Great writing, of course, can be ruined by terrible directors or actors. In this case the acting was stellar.
First and foremost, Steve Carrell played the uncle who is a renowned Proust scholar (I know almost nothing about what this means but there is a taste late in the movie and it's funny) and was recovering from a failed suicide attempt and was astonishing.
I dig the fact that he chose a role where he had to show additional range and he did it beautifully. Something tells me he is going to become Jim Carrey with additional depth and I think Jim Carrey has a ton of depth…try Truman Show or Man on the Moon, he was terrific in both.
The heroin addicted, brusquely crude Grandpa was played brilliantly by Alan Arkin. Greg Kinnear was wonderful as the father playing a less than famous and far less than successful, unpublished success author and speaker.
The mother was played by Toni Collette and she is super talented and for some reason I found her irresistible. I had a feeling she had been in something else and thank goodness for IMDB I found out where, she was the mother in Sixth Sense and was similarly totally compelling in that role.
Abigail Breslin was great as the daughter and the Little Miss Sunshine contestant. She actually had one scene that sent me to the upper deck of my movie theater to be by myself so I could cry as hard as I wanted to. I won't ruin it for you, but it happened when her and Alan Arkin were chatting and if you see it you'll know exactly the scene I'm referring to.
Finally, in a bit of a show-stealer role a guy named Paul Dano played the brother. He is practically a mirror image (youthful that is) of John Cusack and thankfully lives up to Mr. Cusack's talent at that age. Strangely and quite delightfully he spends much of the movie not talking (partly because of flight school and partly because of Friedrich Nietzsche).
I'm not a big fan of revealing a lot of the storyline but overall it's quirky, funny, a little dark and a lot of silly at points. It was done by Fox's Searchlight Films which I know did Napoleon Dynamite and it was a little formulaic that the end included a dance scene.
But you know something? I'll take formulaic for things like Little Miss Sunshine and Napoleon Dynamite ANY day of the week over another tired murder, sci-fi, even love story and their mind numbing sequels whose formulas are so old they are forced to look to old lame tv shows to bring back to screen.
Bravo to Mr. Arndt and the actors of Little Miss Sunshine, you brought some serious light into my life.