Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris’s ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ (2006)

24Feb07

I finally saw the surprise sleeper hit that earned itself four Oscar nominations, the film that was recommended to me by everyone whose opinion of film I value. And I have to say: WHAT? Am I the only one who recognizes that writer Michael Arndt merely combined every indie movie cliché into one film? Oh, thank goodness – I’m not. Let’s count the clichés, eh? A (1) dysfunctional, mixed family comprised of quirky characters takes (2) a road trip fraught with wacky mishaps that brings to the surface hidden suffering and happily ignored problems, but (3) the physical journey across the land mirrors the emotional journey of the family, which (4) culminates in the confrontation of social norms. There’s even (5) a transformation of a symbol of struggle into a symbol of ascendancy.

I do not wish to dwell in aspersion, because I think that critical hype interfered with my ability to experience the film. Little Miss Sunshine is a solid film and worth a viewing, however I do not find it deserving of the praise and critical attention that it has received. The acting is solid though not particularly outstanding. Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette turn in workman-like performances. Abigail Breslin avoids the cute overload from which some child actors suffer, Steve Carell delivers an understated, funny performance, and Alan Arkin displays his perfect comedic delivery. Also very good but not as lauded, Paul Dano makes a lot out of a role with very few lines. Despite some conceits, the script is strong. Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are able to handle both the comedic and dramatic aspects of the film, and the emotional climax is heartwarming without being cloying.

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