Indie Movie Checklist: Dysfunctional family with a crazy adventure and a sweet ending.

Some movies tend to make me root for the protagonist(s). These movies are special, because they give you that extra emotional feeling of happiness and joy at the characters’ successes. Any other movie would make you cry or make you laugh or any other emotion. In these special movies, Little Miss Sunshine is one of them.

Little Miss Sunshine is directed by the husband-wife team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. It’s about a dysfunctional family who takes their daughter to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. The family consists of: Richard Hoover, the Type A personality father, Sheryl, the caring and realistic mother, Dwayne, the silent son who wants to go to flight school, Olive, the enthusiastic and focused daughter, Frank, the gay Proust scholar who has had a recent brush with death, and Edwin, the heroin snorting loud mouthed grandpa. Another character in this story is the car they travel in: the Volkswagen T2 Microbus. An entity of its own, it’s clutch gets shot, it’s horn starts howling and it crashes through a toll gate.

The story is simple, but the direction gives it that extra quality that makes this movie shine. The writing here is the reason for the film’s quality: Michael Arndt deserves that Oscar for a simple story that is honest and not funny, but quirky (an example of this is the body snatching scene). The writing and dialog project the family as conflicting and confused characters, and at the same time takes the beauty pageant people as the “bad guys”. You really hate them, as I did. That kind of writing is the kind that gets noticed, because of the emotions it churns up in you. The writing also gives the characters solid backgrounds: extra details like the retirement home detail. That is the backbone of this movie: the writing.

The performances in this movie are awesome. The cast in this movie is so brilliant, it couldn’t have been any other way. Abigail Breslin is so innocent and sweet; she gives her career performance. The way she reacts in many points in the movie makes her a natural. She holds her own in this movie with talented pros. Paul Dano showcases raw acting as the caring brother who wants to be fly jets. Alan Arkin’s character has all the funny lines. The rest of the family is just outstanding. Other notable performances include the beauty pageant lady: I hate her to the core.

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris deliver comedy in such a no-nonsense way. As music video pros, the last dance at the end shows their experience. They’ve handled a great script in a great way with this debut movie. The soundtrack is also a great collection of choices. There’s nothing more I can say…

The best scene in the movie is Olive’s dance: the dance that is the reason they came to the pageant, the one taught by her grandpa, and the one she’s practised so hard for. The scene came as a surprise to anyone who has seen it, and it works on a comedic and emotional level also. The comedy comes from the dance and the reactions towards it. The emotion comes from the family’s bond towards Olive when they support her by dancing on stage. Excellent song choice, by the way (Superfreak). That scene made me say that this was a great movie. Because it could have been done in any other way. It could have ended differently. But, this is the best ending this movie deserved.
Little Miss Sunshine is a movie that is a must-see.

5/5.

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