Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Adventure, Comedy
  • 2006
  • 102 mins

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

Synopsis

Dark comedy following a dysfunctional family crossing America in a battered VW camper van so that their seven-year-old can compete in the eponymous beauty pageant

About

Sundance favourite Little Miss Sunshine is a quirky little film that is almost impossible to categorise. Not quite drama, not out-and-out comedy, this charming and unusually understated film manages to squeeze more honesty and understanding into an hour-and-a-half than you'll get from a whole course of therapy.

The family unit comprises a randy old grandfather with a coke habit (Arkin), parents with marital problems (Kinnear and Collette), a suicidal gay uncle (Carell), a Nietzsche-obsessed teen who's taken a vow of silence (Dano) and Olive, a podgy seven-year-old who wants to be a beauty queen (Breslin).

When a stroke of luck means Olive gets to compete in the prestigious Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California, the whole family bundle their kit bags and problems into the VW to head across the continent to fulfil Olive's dreams.

Dysfunctional families are a common occurrence in independent films, but first-time directors Faris and Dayton do not merely make their characters ciphers for the jaded theme of the dissolution of the American dream. The extremely talented cast make the dysfunction fresh and amusing. This is ensemble acting at its most effective, with uniformly excellent performances. The real star, though, is Abigail Breslin as Olive, a character so fully-realised you almost forget she's seven.

The pageant itself is macabre. While not played for laughs, these sequences are among the funniest in the film. The other contestants are, of course, terrifying. The little JonBenet Ramseys are dressed like streetwalkers and held together with enough hairspray to re-enact the Hindenburg disaster. In beautiful counterpoint to Olive, each possesses the steely-eyed look of John Dillinger. Only shorter. And more sequined. And able to tap dance.

While the comedy is most certainly black, this is a remarkably uplifting, endearing and moving film. A treat.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell
  • Director: Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton
  • Screen Writer: Michael Arndt
  • Producer: Ron Yerxa, David T Friendly, Albert Berger, Marc Turtletaub, Peter Saraf
  • Photographer: Tim Suhrstedt
  • Composer: Mychael Danna

In a nutshell

Charming, funny and wonderfully acted: this delight of independent cinema will make you want to pick up the phone and call your own dysfunctional family just to tell them you love them.

by Ben Reynolds

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Serena

    Romantic drama set in Depression-era North Carolina starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

    On Film4: 3 Oct 9:00PM

  • Film4

    Destry

    Audie Murphy stars in this remake of 1939's Destry Rides Again, which is directed by the man who made that previous version, George Marshall.

    On Film4: 5 Oct 12:40PM

  • Film4

    Macbeth on Film4

    Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard star in Justin Kurzel's gripping adaptation of Macbeth, playing for the first time on Film4.

  • Film4

    Lone Survivor on Film4

    Mark Wahlberg stars in exciting military action-drama Lone Survivor, playing for the first time on Film4.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten

    Film4.com Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with Film4.com editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share