The Junk Food of Writing

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The most unpleasant surprise of the summer? I think so.

I was initially wary that Little Miss Sunshine would be an annoyingly platitiudinous, dysfunctional-family-goes-on-a-road-trip-to-self-discovery flick. And, you know what, it sort of is. The most shocking thing about the film, though, is that it doesn't helplessly try to grab the scarf-clad, Zach Braff acolytes; this film teaches me that all Sundance-approved productions can have flaws that come in all different shapes and sizes.

The well-intending cast of Little Miss Sunshine realize that they're stranded with a hopeless screenplay

Despite an advertising campaign very reminiscent to Garden State, the film is much more thematically similar to Alexander Payne's Sideways. Little Miss Sunshine is, essentially, a film about winners and losers -- and how losers can be winners. Isn't that sweet? Oh, and it's also a critique on suburbia, America (placed outside of the suburbs and on various highways) and superficiality. The film is funamentally very confused; the problem is that it's either not nasty enough or not genuine and sweet enough. Situations full of truth are stretched thin and made implausible by caricatures played by actors who try desperately to ground their characters -- characters which each take about 45 seconds to set-up (although we're given at least 10 minutes for each).

Each individual in the Hoover family is given a title (Steve Carrell is the 'gay, suicidal Proust-scholar,' while Paul Dano is the 'aloof, reserved Nieztche-reading teenager' and Alan Arkin is the 'certifiable, potty-mouthed, horny, drug-addicted grandpa' who is a veteran of some war); the characters are so exaggerated that its difficult to believe the screenwriter was unaware of their phoniness. Worse than them being caricatures, some of them don't even earn their predicated 'title.' I would never believe that Carrell's character is a homosexual, ex-professor if I wasn't repeatedly told so.

Then, towards the final act, the film builds a bit of its 'own' (confused, trite) philosphy ('suffering is the essence of life, so why try avoiding it?'), yet it contradicts itself in the very next scene (when the protagonist who just learned that pearl of wisdom tries to dissuade his younger sister from performing in a pageant, where he believes she'll suffer). Due to the film's various inconsistencies (in characters, warped philosophy and tone) Little Miss Sunshine is not just an irritating, clich├ęd, self-proclaimed 'indie flick,' but a rather unfunny, inept and muddled film.


  • I'll read your review once I watch the film, but it's good to see you posting (regularly) again.

    By Blogger Ali, at 12:48 AM  

  • Great review. Please don't leave again.

    By Blogger JavierAG, at 10:27 AM  

  • I saw this today and I feel the same way. Everything about it was everything I hate about these kind of indie movies.

    Pauline Kael said something to the effect of indie movies being just as self-absorbed as Hollywood ones, and I agree with her when it comes to this movie.

    By Blogger Kathleen, at 9:24 PM  

  • God, you were really right about this one. I'll leave my criticisms for a later review, but my god, this movie just repeatedly cops out on every moment, hiding its flaws under this quirky-indie vibe that thereby *automatically* makes it funny.

    By the way, this film got applause when the credits rolled. Why do they only cheer on the bad ones?

    By Blogger Ali, at 9:26 PM  

  • Even though it's getting a lot of praise, I was kind of underwhelmed by Little Miss Sunshine. It was very cliched like you said, and I also found it to be pretty predictable with not a lot of new things to say about dysfunctional families. Some great performances, though.

    By Anonymous Scott D. (Al Q Bobson), at 9:54 PM  

  • Everyone's telling me this movie's some masterpiece, it's great to hear a different stance on it.

    By Blogger Emma, at 9:08 AM  

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