The review is a little bit short and a little bit late tonight, but when I got home from work I just really wanted a long, hot shower. And now that you’re all picturing me naked, let’s get on with the film.
Best dancing since Napoleon Dynamite
Seven-year-old Olive Hoover wants to be a beauty queen. She earns a place in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant with three days’ notice, so the whole family piles in to the less-than-reliable VW bus for the drive from Albuquerque to California. Arguments, bonding and heroin ensue.
I have been putting off watching this movie for quite a while now. Much as I was with Away We Go, I was worried that it might be a bit too twee. A bit too cute for its own good. Much as with Away We Go, that fear turns out to have been unfounded. Once things get going, this film is a joy. I spent 90 minutes this morning with a stupid grin on my face, and the rest of the day randomly bursting into the chorus of “Superfreak”.
Nobody plays a supercilious asshole quite like Greg Kinnear, mostly because he is not afraid to be seen as a supercilious asshole. I really didn’t like his Richard Hoover for most of the film to be honest, but I get the feeling I wasn’t supposed to. It was only after his ill-advised detour to Scottsdale that he started to become more sympathetic and I warmed up to him as a fully-rounded individual. His was the best written part in the movie, in fact. All the actors did excellent work, but the rest of the characters were a bit thinly developed in places, particularly Alan Arkin’s Grandpa. The man was obviously having a whale of a time, which fed into the performance, although the failings in the script would have been lot more pronounced with a lesser actor. To be honest, I think that complaint goes for all the roles except Richard and Olive. It was the actors more than the script that made this film the success it was. And speaking of Olive, Abigail Breslin deserves everything that has come her way since this flick. The girl is a star.
When my nieces get to around Olive’s age (or maybe a little older. There is rather a lot of swearing) I am definitely going to show them this film. Its depiction of the beauty pageant, and the way the family reacts to it with horror, is fantastic. The flick doesn’t demonise the girls who take part in these things or the parents who go along with it, only the organisers get a bit of a drubbing. Since the girls and parents shown in the film are actual pageant attendees – some of them even acted as consultants – this is understandable although no real criticism of these events would be complete without really sticking it to the parents who turn their daughters into painted dolls. Sorry, rant over. I just really hate the fact that those things exist. Pageants, that is, not daughters.
The film looks amazing, especially in the driving montages. Cinematographer Tim Suhrstedt gives everything a timeless feel with blown-out colours and plenty of lens flare. It looks a bit like it’s been Instagram-ed, but in a good way. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris bring some heavy experience to this, their debut feature, after over twenty years of making some of the most iconic music videos for bands like REM, Smashing Pumpkins and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and they ended up bringing the house down at Sundance. Not bad going really. Their follow-up is going to be interesting, whenever it happens.