Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Little Miss Sunshine
The film sees an extended family of six take their Volkswagen T2 Microbus and go on a road trip from Albuquerque to California so that the youngest, seven-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin) can compete in a beauty contest. Taking her there and going with her to support her are her father Richard (Greg Kinnear), whose facing bankruptcy; her overworked mother Sheryl (Toni Collette); her fifteen-year-old half-brother Dwayne (Paul Dano), who has taken a vow of silence until he becomes a test pilot; her gay uncle Frank (Steve Carell), fresh out of hospital after a suicide attempt; and her heroin-addicted, foul-mouthed grandpa, Edwin (Alan Arkin), who's just been evicted from his retirement home. Misfortunes, accidents, realizations, and even tragedies, befall the family over the course of the 800 mile journey, but that never stops them from striving to reach their destination.
Easily one of the best films of 2006, Little Miss Sunshine boasts a wonderful screenplay, full of lovely gags that work thanks to irony, crude references and blunt attitudes, and in Arkin's Edwin's case a foul-mouth and dodgy attitude to women and sex, and a wonderful group of characters that carry the film from start to finish, along with several truly poignant moments.
Without the right cast the film would have failed, but the film instead is carried by the actors who bring true life to their characters.
Abigail Breslin makes Olive a worried, slightly troubled child, but with a truly loving attitude to her family, particularly her grandpa, and, like most kids, an inquisitive attitude to the way the world works and the decisions people around her make, and pulls it off perfectly. Her childish innocence makes the character, particularly in the scene where Olive inadvertently causes Dwayne to realize he is colour blind, and can never become a test pilot. Breslin also breaks the heart in the scene where she finds her grandpa unconsciously slipping into death and, upset and panicky, she alerts her parents to what's going on, through her facial expressions and the look of fear in her eyes.
Kinnear and Collette are a truly perfect pairing as Olive's parents. Their argumentative, frustated discussions make lovely comic interplay, and really keep one's attention. Kinnear also creates a character you want to hate but want to feel sorry for, thanks to the character's insistency that the family should all strive to be winners and totally avoid being losers, but his failing career and life that's going downhill. Steve Carell gives the best performance of his entire career, creating a heartbreakingly depressed character, but one you really feel a deep connection to, particularly when he becomes the only source of comfort for Dwayne as his world falls apart, really making you feel nostalgic for when family would support you in your hour of need and the close bond you feel for them. Dano is hilarious during the first two-thirds of the film as he communicates with his family through notepad and pen, and to great success creates an almost gothic character as he frowns and writes 'I hate everyone' and 'Welcome to hell' when communicating with Carell. In the final third where Dwayne's world comes crashing down around him he really breaks the heart as he screams in frustration and sobs over the dream that has now gone, and will really cause feelings of empathy for those of us who have been in similar situations.
Alan Arkin, however steals the show as Edwin. His outstanding comic timing makes the foul-mouthed heroin addict absolutely hilarious, as is the character's attitude to women, his step-grandson's sex life and Frank's sexuality in terms of how he satisfies his needs when it comes to porno, but he is so kind to Olive that it breaks your heart when he dies of a heroin overdose, and will hit you especially hard if you ever lost someone you love that deeply and it's not at all expected. Arkin truly earned his Oscar for this performance.
The message of the film is that life is full of winners and losers, but that we will never be the best at anything - there will always be others better, yet being a true loser would mean not trying at all. Whether you agree with this or not doesn't matter, as this is a wonderful film that will steal the hearts of all those who view it.
Stars: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Lauren Shiohama, Beth Grant, Wallace Langham, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Matt Winston, Geoff Meed, Justin Shilton Bryan Cranston, Gordon Thomson.
Oscars: Best Screenplay (Michael Arndt), Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin).
Oscar nominations: Best Picture (David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub), Best Supporting Actress (Abigail Breslin).