Directed by: Jonathan Dayton and
Starring: Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Paul
Dano, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin
Released by: Fox Searchlight
Short: The Oscar race begins with this bitingly
funny, emotionally wrenching tale of a messed-up
family crammed into a yellow VW Van on a comical
road trip to a little girl’s beauty pageant.
The Little VW Van that Could
Are Winners in the Year’s First Oscar Contender
a bitingly funny and truthful script, add in deft direction
and a stellar cast, and the resulting film—“Little
Miss Sunshine”—emerges as the year’s
first bona fide contender for the Best Picture Oscar.
serio-comic gem follows the adventures of the Hoover family
as they pile into a raggedy, old yellow VW van and head
from Albuquerque, N.M., to Redondo Beach, Calif., so that
9-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin, in an inspired performance)
can compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant.
Richard (Greg Kinnear), the loser dad who can’t
seem to get his power of positive thinking scheme off
the ground; Grandpa (Alan Arkin), his dad, who spends
his retirement snorting coke and teaching Olive a very
special dance routine; Sheryl (Toni Collette), the mom
who does her best to keep the family surviving; Dwayne
(Paul Dano), the teenager who has taken a vow of silence;
and Frank (Steve Carrell), a gay Proust scholar whose
recent suicide attempt hasn’t quite worked out.
this motley family careens across the Southwest, life
just seems to be against them, one and all. Mixing moments
of real pathos with gut-wrenchingly funny scenes, the
film sets a tone that is clever yet real, sometimes pathetic,
usually ironic, often sad, and all together completely
engaging. It’s no wonder that the film was the big
hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It does
what movies rarely do, letting us get inside a family’s
worst and best moments with a believability that touches
the heart and the funny bone at the same time.
the husband-and-wife directing team, the first-time screenwriter
(Michael Arndt) and every rider of that yellow van deserve
Oscar nods. If someone is left out, it will be a crime.
and if the penultimate scene of “Little Miss Sunshine”
doesn’t make you laugh so hard you cry, then let’s
face it, you’re taking little girl beauty pageants
way too seriously, sister.