Little Miss Sunshine (15)



Comedy (2006)
102mins US

Starring: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer(s): Michael Arndt
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

When their young daughter Olive is selected as a finalist in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant (albeit by default), proud parents Richard and Sheryl cram their entire family - airforce-obsessed son Dwayne, porn-loving father and suicidal, gay, Proust scholar brother Frank - into a VW camper van for a cross country road trip to hell and back. The troubles begin within minutes of hitting the road, exacerbated by mechanical problems with the van and Dwayne's refusal to speak. Amidst the bickering, the family learns some painful home truths and discovers an underlying love that will help them survive any ordeal.

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Won Best Supporting Actor (Alan Arkin) and Best Original Screenplay at The 79th Academy Awards® (25th February 2007)

Click here to read the interview of Toni Collette (Sheryl)

LondonNet Film Review

Little Miss Sunshine
The critical darling of the Sundance Film Festival, where it incited a frenzied bidding war, Little Miss Sunshine is a joyous celebration of 21st century family life in all of its perplexing, dysfunctional glory...

Toni Collette (Sheryl), Abigail Breslin (Olive), Alan Arkin (Grandpa), Paul Dano (Dwayne), Steve Carell (Frank) and Greg Kinnear (Richard) in the film LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. TM & © 2006 Twentieth Century Fox. All right reservedScreenwriter Michael Arndt uses the familiar structure of a road movie to probe social mores and reveal the intense emotional bonds, which unite even the most misfit and fractured of families. He arms the cast with an embarrassment of stinging one-liners yet still manages to make the characters seem very real, and all the more lovable for their quirks and eccentricities.

Husband and wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris gearshift seamlessly from directing music videos to the vast canvas of big screen, finding intense moments of human drama during the epic journey.

Seven-year-old wannabe beauty queen Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) is delighted to be selected as a finalist in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in California. Her proud parents, Richard (Greg Kinnear) and Sheryl (Toni Collette), cram their entire family - angry son Dwayne (Paul Dano), porn-loving father (Alan Arkin) and suicidal, gay brother Frank (Steve Carell) - into a VW camper van for a cross country road trip to hell and back.

The bickering and frosty silences begin within minutes of hitting the road, exacerbated by mechanical problems with the van and Dwayne's vow of silence until he is accepted into the Air Force Academy.

Amidst the sniping (or in Dwayne's case, withering looks), the family learns some painful home truths and discovers an underlying love that will help them survive any ordeal.

The ensemble cast is extraordinary. Kinnear is both infuriating and endearingly pathetic as a motivational speaker, who practices what he preaches (the nine-step "Refuse To Lose" program) to the detriment of the people around him. Collette brings warmth and a steely edge to her long-suffering mother, and Arkin is a foul-mouthed delight as a grandfather, who has no time for social niceties or political correctness. His inspirational speech to grandson Dwayne, extolling the virtues of sleeping around at college, is hysterical.

Carell is almost unrecognisable from his tour-de-force comic performances in The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the US version of The Office. There is a beautiful stillness and melancholy to his character, matched by Dano's brilliant portrayal of a truculent teenager who communicates using a notepad and claims to hate everyone. "What about your family?" asks uncle Frank. Dwayne underlines everyone without a hint of a smile. Ten-year-old Breslin is sensational as the youngest member of the Hoover clan, whose fragile confidence is knocked by her father's meddling.

The scene in which Olive tearfully asks her grandfather, "Am I pretty?", and then sobs, "I don't want to be a loser - Dad hates losers," leaves us just as upset as the little girl. For once, grandpa knows what to say. "A real loser isn't someone who doesn't win. A real loser is someone so afraid of not winning, they don't even try." Parents screw up their kids more than they will ever know.

- Heather Von Bourne

Click here to read the interview of Toni Collette (Sheryl)


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