I love road trip movies and that is just what “Little Miss Sunshine” is. It is a great trip with a lot happening along the way. An unforgettable group of characters is off to watch the crowning of the new Little Miss Sunshine.
Here is a family unlike any family you have seen before. The Hoovers are loveable and dysfunctional and they thrown together to make this road trip at which time they are forced to deal with each other along with a series of setbacks and catastrophes.
The head of the group is Richard Hoover played by Greg Kinnear. He is a motivational speaker whose entire career rests upon the success of a book he has written, speaking engagements and workshops based upon his nine step program. It is not enough that his family is not solid but he deals with career stress as well. He is married to Sheryl (Toni Collette) who struggles to keep the family together while not receiving any help to do so. Richard’s father (Alan Arkin) has been kicked out of a nursing home because of drug use and obscenity and he spends most of his time with Olive (Abigail Breslin), seven years old, who is practicing her dance routine for the upcoming beauty pageant. More chaos ensues when Sheryl brings her gay brother (Stephen Carrell) to live with them after he survived an unsuccessful suicide attempt. He is to share a room with his nephew Dwayne (Paul Dano) who has taken a vow of silence and dreams of escaping his family by joining the marines.
Richard feels that the world should be divided into the winners and the losers and he talks to his family about success and failure all of the time. As he waits to hear the news of a possible contract for his work, a call comes to bring Olive to the West Coast for the Little Miss Sunshine Finals. Feeling fragile, he volunteers to drive the family to Renondo Beach and they set off for a three day journey in an old Volkswagen van. On the way there is clutch trouble and this is the catalyst that allows the family now to learn top deal with each other. Some how they manage to achieve a semblance of solidarity.
The cast is perfect and the spirit of rebellion and a smart script make this a wonderful movie. There is a great deal of humanity and heart in the film. It shows that the concept of family is not a perfect machine and it is made up of components that do not necessarily fit and are prone to malfunction. The comic tone is deftly channeled by a cast that knows how to perform. I was amazed by Greg Kinnear’s performance and Toni Collette’s understated performance is a heart stealer. It is a delightful film that shows how families work (or don’t work) and is not your usual movie theater fare.