Little Miss Sunshine - True Beauty

20th Century Fox
Duration: 101min
Category: comedy
Available: On DVD
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It’s wonderful when a film lives up to its hype.

Little Miss Sunshine screened at Sundance and built its buzz to its late summer premiere. This kind of release story is a bit cliché today and leads to a lot of disappointment (likeOpen Water ) but Little Miss Sunshine defies the clichés and pays off. It’s the kind of film that, back in Sundance’s heyday, changed the way mainstream audiences saw “indie” films. This is a truly great comedy and the kind of film you walk out of completely satisfied.

Little Miss Sunshine is the story of a dysfunctional family on a road trip. I know, but before you start screaming “I’ve seen it before” understand that this film makes up in great writing what it lacks in originality of premise. Sure, crazy families that learn to love each other are a dime a dozen on the silver screen but stories about them that are this clever, unsentimentally moving and truly funny are rare.

This script is tight. The laughs come from a very real place, usually a place of pain, and are cathartic, intense and satisfying. It’s a bit of a rambling story, not random or pointless, just an arc that isn’t formulaic. It’s like As Good as it Gets in that you have strong characters on an unpredictable journey and it’s a pleasure to be along for the ride.

The cast of Little Miss Sunshine is up to the level of the script. At the centre is current golden boy Steve Carell who shows us once again that he’s not another Jim Carrey. He’s a thoughtful performer who knows real comedy. His role as the suicidal uncle could have been hammy but he stays true to the human he is inhabiting. He remains understated and truly funny.

He leaves the hamminess to the pitch perfect Alan Arkin who delights as the over the top grandfather. He manages the excessive character enough to make him as real as the movie needs him to be.

The real star of the film is Greg Kinnear, who hasn’t been this good since As Good as it Gets. He’s got the suburban cheese thing down pat and here he takes that bit of typecasting on a redemptive transition. His story ends up as the guiding force of the film and he imbues the right mix of pathetic, earnest, desperate normalness that makes us relate to and care about these guys.

The breakout star of Little Miss Sunshine is Abigail Breslin as the young daughter who dreams of winning a beauty pageant. She’s got that kind of screen charisma that just naturally draws the camera and its audience to her. It’s her liberation at the end of the film that is the salvation of her family. It’s also such a powerful moment in terms of emotion and humour that you can’t help but be affected and bust your gut laughing so hard.

A comedy like Little Miss Sunshine, which draws its hilarity from the pain of the real world, is so much more satisfying to laugh with, and therefore so much funnier, than comedy which draws its humour from the some ridiculous absurdity or abscess of toilet references. Little Miss Sunshine is the kind of film that makes you laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh. This is the kind of film to see in a cinema with people around you because there is nothing like laughing together in a big crowd at something truly beautiful.

Review By: Collin Smith

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