Little Miss Sunshine

Yes, it's that good.




Just finished watching the Odyssey-in-a-Microbus, Little Miss Sunshine. It's the type of movie my wife hates, but which I love, where all the characters are shades of gray. They're intensely real, and flawed, and they love and hate one another. Yet they're bound together by bonds that bring them together when it counts--death, adversity, and the bald insanity of life.

Steve Carell is a revelation as Frank Hoover, the frustrated homosexual academic who we meet in a hospital fresh off his failed suicide attempt. Out of work, without insurance, he's kicked out of the pysch ward to the care of his overwrought sister, Sheryl. We meet her blended family next: Her husband Richard the self-help guru, the vow-of-silence goth teen Dwayne, the heroin-snorting profane Grandpa, and the little ingenue Olive.

The plot is almost "National Lampoon" worthy: After getting Frank home and settling him into his Albuquerque imprisonment with Dwayne ("Don't kill yourself tonight" he scrawls on his omnipresent notebook beneath his oversized caricature of Nietzche), they get a call. Olive has moved up from being first runner-up to winner of the regional "Little Miss Sunshine" pageant. She needs to the semi-finals in Los Angeles.

They don't have any money. They can't fly. They have to be there in two days. They can't leave Frank alone with anyone. They have to take Grandpa with them--he's Olive's coach (sure, why not?). They have a VW Microbus, but Sheryl can't drive a stick.

That's right, folks--Six people driving two thousand miles roundtrip in an aircooled relic from the 60's. Then the clutch blows out 200 miles in, and the mechanic recommends push starting and shifting only between 3rd and 4th, without the clutch.

The van's a character in the film in its own right. Unlike the rest, it starts whole and decays, absorbing their sins like a yellow, houndstooth-interior priest. At the end it's falling apart, but they've gelled as people and as a family.

It was a great little movie that most everyone I know would hate. L.A. Confidential all over again, I suppose

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