A strong argument for the introduction of a Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast Oscar, the delightful Little Miss Sunshine is a film that is truly elevated by the sum of its parts.
Released in 2006, the movie started life on the festival circuit before being snapped up in a bidding war and propelled to Oscar glory. Abigail Breslin makes her breakthrough as Olive Hoover, a pageant-obsessed eight-year old living in suburban New Mexico with her failing motivational speaker father Richard (Gregg Kinnear), harried but loving mother Sheryl (Toni Collette), intensely mute brother Dwayne (Paul Dano) and her heroin-smoking grandfather Edwin (Alan Alda).
The film opens with one more addition to the household – depressed gay Proust scholar Frank, played by a sad-eyed pre-Office Steve Carrell. He is forced to stay with his sister’s family after a failed suicide attempt. The film does an excellent job of setting up these wildly disparate characters and subtly pairing them up – first in the extended opening dinner table scene and then later when the family finally hits the road to help Olive to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in California.
Like most road trip movies, the journey winds up being far more important than the destination, as the character rub against each other, barely buried tensions are revealed and unexpected tragedy strikes. It’s impossible to pick a single standout, from Kinnear’s delusions of imminent fame and horribly misguided parenting technique to Collette’s quiet emotional intelligence and Dano’s brilliant dialogue-free facial reactions. But it was Alda and Breslin who picked up Oscar nominations, and their pairing is arguably the heart and soul of the movie.
On this week’s episode, we break down some of our favourite moments, including the pageant from hell, awkward moments aplenty and of course the much-celebrated Steve Carrell run. We’ll also brainstorm some drinking games, check in with our listeners for their reactions and pitch some sequel ideas to reunite the cast a decade and a half later.
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Next week, we’re continuing our road trip theme with the absolute mother of the genre. Until then, happy listening and remember – there should never be a good reason for spray-tanning an eight year old…