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: Paul Dano, Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Steve Carell, Abigail Breslin
  • 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

    The Five-Year Engagement

    Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are Tom and Violet, a happy couple whose plans to marry become increasingly hopeless. Co-starring Chris Pratt and a host of sit-com favourites, expect sincerely romantic moments amongst Segel's signature frat boy humour.

    On Film4: 4 Aug 9:00PM

  • Film4

    Maidan

    Documentary portrait of the winter 2013/14 Ukrainian demonstrations in Kiev against the pro-Moscow presidency of Viktor Yanukovych and for a greater integration with Europe.

  • Film4

    Damsels in Distress on Film4

    Whit Stillman returns to directing, with a twee comedy that follows Greta Gerwig and her pompous college buddies as they set about improving campus life for all

  • Film4

    The Five-Year Engagement on Film4

    Jason Segel and Emily Blunt are Tom and Violet, a happy couple whose plans to marry become increasingly hopeless. Co-starring Chris Pratt and a host of sit-com favourites, expect sincerely romantic moments amongst Segel's signature frat boy humour.

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

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

or Register

Share