Little Miss Sunshine (4 stars)

(15) 102min

Meet the Hoover clan from Albuquerque, New Mexico. There’s bankruptcy-facing motivational speaker Dad (Greg Kinnear), a highly stressed Mum (Toni Collette), a Nietzche-obsessed adolescent son Dwayne (Paul Dano) undertaking a vow of silence, a suicidal Proust scholar uncle (Steve Carrell) recently jilted by his male lover, and a foul-mouthed Grandpa (Alan Arkin), who experiments with heroin. This being a road trip movie, all these characters get to pile into a malfunctioning VW van in order to escort the chubby, bespectacled 7-year-old daughter Olivia (Abigail Breslin) to a beauty contest, which is taking place hundreds of miles away in sunny California.

Co-directed by the husband and wife team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine has echoes of the recent Argentinean film Familia Rodante, in which four generations of the same family cram together in a similar vehicle for a cross-country journey, and also of David O Russell’s underrated farce Flirting with Disaster. Michael Arndt’s amusing script, with its gags about suicide and the perils of buying pornography at service stations, offers a critique of the prevailing win-at-all-costs culture. What connects several of the Hoovers is that they take refuge from their unhappiness in fantasy scenarios: Dad dreams of gaining wealth through his ‘refuse-to-lose’ self-help programme, Dwayne yearns to fly fighter jets, Abigail to become the Little Miss Sunshine of the title. Impressively acted by its ensemble cast, the film culminates in a memorably grotesque pre-teen pageant, which is both a metaphor for fame-obsessed American society and a reason for Abigail to show off some unexpected dance moves.

General release from Fri 8 Sep.

Little Miss Sunshine

  • 4 stars
  • 2006
  • US
  • 1h 41min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
  • Written by: Michael Arndt
  • Cast: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin

Probably the planet's most dysfunctional family embark on a road trip to that totem of American aspirations: a children's beauty contest in California. An amusing script, impressive acting and memorable fantasy sequences round out the critique of the prevailing win-at-all-costs culture.

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