Unwilling to leave the house until temperatures drop to a bearable 25 degrees celsius? What better way to pass away the time you'll be spending indoors then by watching a great flick! Here I have begun for you a short list of top five films to watch when it's too hot to go outside (if you want to catch up on the previous posts, read number five here, number four here, and number three here. The list is drawing to a close with only one more film to go. Without further ado here is film number two:
No. 2: "Little Miss Sunshine" (Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, 2006, USA)
A child's dream is something most people don't want to crush. Most people will go above and beyond to make sure that the children in their lives can achieve or at least get closer to their dreams. When little Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) can't contain herself from the excitement of being newly eligible to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, it's more or less inevitable that her family will do whatever they can to get her there to compete (even if they can barely afford it). Normally children's beauty pageants wouldn't logically equate to heart warming and legitimately good movies, but Little Miss Sunshine (the winner of two Oscars, and nominated for two others) does just that.
The film revolves around a New Mexico family that seems to always be on the brink of dissolution. At the head are parents Sheryl (the overtired but down to earth mother played by Toni Collette) and Richard Hoover (Sheryl's second husband who is a wannabe motivational speaker and obsessed with winning; played by Greg Kinnear). The other family members include sullen and pale Dwayne (Paul Dano) is Sheryl's son from her first marriage, who has taken a vow of silence until he gets his jet pilot's licence, and his seven year old sister Olive, a stout little girl with large glasses whose dream is to become a beauty queen. Living with them is grandpa Edwin Hoover (Alan Arkin), a World War Two veteran who was kicked out of his retirement home for using and selling heroin, and depressed suicide survivor uncle Frank Ginsberg (Steve Carell).
In one of the first scenes of the film, where the whole family must sit together to eat some fried chicken, Dayton and Faris brilliantly set up the intricate dynamics of this family: Sheryl is tired but wants everyone to be happy and get along, Frank is withdrawn and blatantly honest to Olive about his attempted suicide and sexual orientation, this in turn bothers Richard, who equates Frank's suicide with failure. Grandpa can't stop swearing about the awful dinner they're having, and it seems clear that Dwayne hates just about everyone except Olive. Olive on the other hand seems to be about the only person who has a healthy relationship with her other family members, especially her grandfather. Despite the dysfunction, when Olive is chosen to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant it is decided that it would be cheaper for the family to drive to California in their Volksvagen T2 microbus (similar to Scooby-Doo's van).
Along the way we see the ups and downs that this family experiences, as well as the gradual deterioration of their van. Yet, what makes the film so fulfilling is not what we see the characters do (as they spend a lot of time sitting in a van) but how much we get to know them. Even though there are basically six main characters, each one is so finely developed that you can practically see somebody you know in them. Their motivations and reactions become more clear as the film goes on. By the end of the film, I no longer was as upset at Richard for claiming that the world only has winners and losers to Olive, because I realised he is frightened of being a hopeless loser himself. By allowing us to discover who these characters really are, the actions they undertake become a lot more understandable, emotional and hilarious. Let's not forget, a dysfunctional family on screen is not only good for drama, but it's also good for some pretty hilarious comedy as well.
So, when you're feeling like sitting inside and watching a movie right in the middle of a hot summer day, just sit back and watch this family enduring the New Mexico heat and California sun as they try to keep it together for the sake of a little girl's dream.
The article was originally written in English.
Photo credit: Miso
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