Don’t judge me for only seeing this movie now, but I have to say I regret not seeing it sooner. Before seeing this movie, all I knew about it was it was nominated for an Oscar and it had a yellow poster (which you know, means sunshine?). Other than that, none, I didn’t know the story or the cast or that it is so enthralling that it has probably become one of my favorite movies of all time.
The directorial debut film of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (who also directed Ruby Sparks – see Paul Dano reference) written by Michael Arndt (who won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay), the film stars Toni Collette, Steve Carell (apparently before he was famous), Greg Kinnear (who is weird to watch as a dad because he reminds me of my dad), Paul Dano (who feels like he is in everything right now, not that it’s a bad thing), Alan Arkin (argo fuck yourselves), Abigail Breslin (before she grew up to be confused with Chloe Moretz) and two of the cast of Breaking Bad before they started shooting in New Mexico. The film follows basically a weekend on the lives of a dysfunctional family on a road trip from New Mexico to California to get to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant.
What I liked most about this movie were the characters (which were acted brilliantly by the cast). The characters could have felt clichéd with the foul-mouthed grandfather, the angst-y teenager and the couple fighting over money and how to raise the children but they weren’t. They were soulful and heartfelt and felt like real people who are going through this crappy patch of their lives. The story that these people were given was basically road trip family style (of course without the explicit content), the milestones that the film takes gives you more depth into the movie, into the characters and into the lives of these people who you only know from watching a short span of their lives. The writing was also incredible, the dialogue and the pacing of this movie was spectacular. It got me laughing and tearing up all the same time. While I was watching this movie, I couldn’t help but feel like I was part of this family experiencing their experiences and doing exactly what they were doing. For example (and most hilariously), when they took Alan Arkin’s body out of the hospital, I think that that could have been a stupid part of the movie but I think it was the most memorable part of it. You feel like if I had been there, having went through what they had, and wanting to get something, just something, I would do it so that I can just get to where I needed to go. The acting was great of course but the stand out of me was Breslin who really can act. She had the optimism of a child all throughout the film but when she reveals that she does feel insecurities, it nearly broke my heart.
What I think the movie could have done better was to explore more on Toni Collette’s character. I just think that out of all the characters in the film, she was the only one without a life out of the family. I mean the dad had a 9-step plan thing, the granddad had his addiction (not saying it’s a good thing), Carrell was this genius, Dano literally had his whole life ahead of him and Breslin had Little Miss Sunshine. All of these was portrayed in the film as the character’s personality away from the family wherein the mom had nothing else to do but to support her family in their endeavours which seems to be a bit unfair. But that is such a small thing compared to the weight of character development in this movie in its entirety.
All in all, this movie leaves a lot to you after you have seen it. It gives you a lot to laugh about and a lot to think about, not only about a movie but also of how it generally represents your life. It’s a bittersweet taste of life; on how we are and how are connected through other people by our triumphs and our losses. I really enjoyed this film and it just touched me so much that anyone who doesn’t at least like it is probably dead inside.