Thursday, December 14, 2006

Review: Little Miss Sunshine

My opinions haven't shifted so much in one run of a movie as they had when I watched Little Miss Sunshine. Though I've been misled before by all the hype from critics (I did not care for Lost in Translation AT ALL), I was ready to love this film and be an advocate of its uphill Oscar campaign. Ten minutes into the film, however, I was ready to hate it and declare it overrated; I found Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin (more on him later), and even everyone's darling Abigail Breslin extremely annoying, with only Toni Collette and Steve Carell making those parts remotely tolerable. What flawed characters! How could anyone love this movie?

That bus does have magic, doesn't it? As soon as their trip to the "Little Miss Sunshine" pageant started on that protesting yellow machine, the character flaws suddenly breathed life into what could have been a completely infuriating movie. The poster shows the characters running to get into the bus, and those moments are truly the most special in the film, for all that it says. There is no doubt that a great ensemble was formed for this movie; their chemistry is organic. There is something endearing in seeing this family on the verge of a breakdown trying not to fall that way but not trying too hard. The ending of the film, with less resolutions than more conventional films have, left me baffled at first, but then I realized that had all the loose ends been tied neatly, all the charm that the movie has would have been for naught.

Abigail Breslin is as charming as other reviews say she is, though I'm still not convinced of her shot at a nomination. I'm much less amenable to the idea of Alan Arkin being nominated (which is seeming to be an even bigger certainty than a nod for Breslin). He has certain touching moments (as when he comforts his son, played by Kinnear, after an upsetting event), but there is nothing remotely special about his short performance (other than being a nutcase with a soft heart for his grandchild) that would warrant all the praise and attention. Come on, are we just being sentimental? If any actor in that ensemble deserves a Supporting Actor nomination, it's Steve Carell, for being natural and deadpan in his delivery of an acerbic yet very caring Proust scholar learning to cope with life's mishaps.

It's no doubt a good film, though I've seen a lot this year that have captivated and drawn me much more. FYC in all the categories that they're campaigning for, except for Arkin. Grade: B+

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