Being bored on a Saturday night after having solved your data collection and coding issues can be pretty depressing; especially in a town packed with people obsessed with the F game. That’s football, you perverts. Anyway, the Aggies lost (again!) to Texas Tech but that didn’t stop people from jamming the streets and the famed Northgate District where I have the unfortunate opportunity to live in.
Wanting to get away, Ash and I decided to catch a movie although this is technically supposed to be a lull in the movie season. The months after summer and just before the holiday season starts at Thanksgiving always is. Ash wanted to see Little Miss Sunshine ever since we saw the trailer at the Landmark Cinema, Houston during the viewing of An Inconvenient Truth. But I was hesitant after The Lake House fiasco. Plus, waiting for the DVD doesn’t seem like a tiring experience after you have burned seven dollars per head for a shitty movie when you could have technically spent just one buck for everyone. We checked out Rotten Tomatoes and it had received an astounding 93% from critics and 96% from other users. Now, we respect Rotten Tomatoes more than any other online film review source, apart from maybe B.Rangan for Bollywood movies. The icing on the cake was when we noticed that the local theater was offering tickets for $4.75 with a student ID. That was the lowest I had paid for a movie ticket since I came to the US. Was it because of DVD competition or simply the lull in the movie season that I mentioned before?
In brief, Little Miss Sunshine is a refreshingly funny movie I have seen in a long time. Although I love slapstick comedies too, I love a movie with intelligent and dysfunctional humor especially when it is couple with great acting from people like Greg Kinnear, Steve Carrel, and the delightful kid, Abigail Breslin. To give you a primer, the movie is about a road trip of a family that could easily be your own; dysfunctional and idiosyncratic with its own brand of inherent humor. You know you are in for a treat when Olive, the kid lets out a piercing shriek of delight when she is chosen to represent her region in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant for kids.
The kid is surrounded by her share of weird members; an angst-ridden teenaged brother who has taken a vow of silence supposedly because of Fredrick Nietsche, a genius uncle who has attempted suicide when his gay lover spurned him, heroin-addicted and sexually crude yet loving grandfather, a wannabe motivational speaker dad who hates “losers”, and a doting mom who is on the verge of a massive maniac depression and contemplating divorce. It could be your family with different although not necessarily less intense problems. The line from the movie, “Everyone, just pretend to be normal”, couldn’t ring any closer to home.In a way, that is why it makes everything so funny even thought the underlying premise is really sad.
You remember the time when you didn’t especially like your family when silent Dwayne writes a note to his uncle that he hates everyone and then emphatically underlines “everyone” when asked that surely he must love his family. Surely we say things, like Dwayne does when he is confronted by a life-altering disability and then recovers quickly through his sister’s innocent and cute gesture to apologize and say, he didn’t mean those things. The best way you can console someone is just by being there and not saying a word. Suicide is really an impulsive decision and generally contemplated by incidents that can be termed as frivolous in the hindsight. But Steve Carrell epitomizes the depressed and suicidal person in recovery. The bond he forges over time with his nephew especially when they talk on the pier about choosing to live the way you do or caring less about what everyone thinks was profound although it was said in completely un-profound ways.
The little bits like about their van losing its clutch and needing a running start with everyone pushing is one of the several moments in the movie that make it endearing; especially so when they forget Olive at the gas station and return to pick her up. They are forced to do so without stopping and makes for a great comic moment. Or the slightly unrelated moment when their van is pulled over by a cop and instead of discovering the “real” reason (will not spoil the movie for you) for everyone discomfort, he instead stumbles on the pron that Kinnear has to explain away by saying, Sweet… sweetness”. Totally hilarious. The grandfather is yet another senile nut case sprinkling the f-word in almost all his conversation be it over food or advice to the teenager (“second-degree burns on my johnson”). However, his touching moments are best revealed when he tells Olive, “I’m madly in love with you, and not just because of your brains and personality. You’re beautiful inside and out.” There couldn’t have been a better grandpa-granddaughter moment especially after what happens next.
The entire movie revolves around Olive’s quest to compete for the Little Miss Sunshine title. She has to be the most adorable kid in the movies in recent times. Dakota Fanning, thanks to her histrionics in The War of the Worlds is thankfully retired. Watch Olive’s ultra cute expressions especially when she is sad and needs reassurance or when she breaks into a smile after she is down. Her honest question to her mom about how much is she allowed to spend when ordering at a restaurant is heartbreaking yet real. Her subsequent battle for her dear ice-cream is awesome. Finally, the movie finale is completely about her dance routine at the pageant and is kept a secret (even from the parents) right until the end and it is a blast.
So if you are moping around and ruing the lack of movies playing near you, go out and see this one. I bet you won’t regret it. Come thank me later.