I had this on the blog than deleted it because I had a contract to publish it exclusively through another organization but since that was never posted, I will repost my review of a great, great film:
This might be one of the few movies in which the phrase "you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll jump for joy" is a true statement, because at the very least, I know I did all three of those things over the course of the movie.
Little Miss Sunshine centers on a dysfunctional family and their misguided hopes to redeem their problems through the potential success of their youngest member Olive (Abigail Breslin). Olive has won a spot in a California beauty pageant and with brother Dwayne (Paul Dano), her uncle (Carrell), her grandfather (Alan Arkin), and her parents (Greg Kinnear and Toni Collete from The Sixth Sense), goes on a road trip to the pageant from her Albuquerque, New Mexico home.
Within an all-star cast, Steve Carrell and Greg Kinnear prove themselves versatile character actors and Alan Arkin's comic shtick compliments their turns nicely as adults who have taken different paths to failure. Carrell's uncle Frank is an accomplished scholar who has just attempted suicide because his boyfriend has left him and he's been fired. Kinnear plays Richard, a self-help motivational speaker who could desperately use a dose of his own medicine while Arkin is the perfect antidote to Richard as his dad who isn't so much unhappy as he is careless with regards to his life. Toni Collette as the family matriarch is the glue that holds all of them together with her level-headed attempts to cope with one problem at a time, but even she is starting to have her problems as she resorts to smoking again. The family's dysfunction is already starting to rub off on older son Dwayne, who has taken a vow of silence and proclaims he hates everyone, so there is a certain desperation within the family that unspoiled at the age of 8, Olive might be the only one left in the family who has a chance at normalcy.
Little Miss Sunshine comes to movie screens nationwide from the Sundance film festival where the filmmakers benefited from being able to have the creative freedom to find their own voice. In this case, it allowed Michael Arndt to write a particularly poignant script that was able to fearlessly go to dark places in finding its moments of joy. The film's R rating, therefore is not just because of the number of bad words, but because the film goes to incredibly dark places touching on failed dreams, suicide, coping with death, a son cussing out his mother for being a failure. Every bit of it is necessary because without hitting such lows, the film's uplifting moments become all the more sweeter. Little Miss Sunshine is a richly told story that brings about a feeling that few movies can offer.