Little Miss Sunshine
Little Miss Sunshine
(15, 108 minutes) Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin
A whole lotta nightmares underpin the American dream. But Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris's glorious new movie comes as something of a wake-up call.
Almost every family feels dysfunctional from the inside.
In fact at times most people feel abnormal or unusual from the inside.
But spend some time with the Hoover family and you and the folks shouldn't feel so bad for a while.
Already in line for some major awards and a runaway success at the Sundance film festival, this is quite simply the most hilarious, humane and oddly heart-warming movie I've seen in ages.
For despite everything, in particular themselves, this is a social unit which works.
Grandpa (Alan Arkin) is a foul-mouthed druggie recently kicked out of his retirement home.
Daddy (Greg Kinnear) has devised a nine-steps-to-success life plan, called Refuse to Lose, which he applies to every aspect of home-life, even eating ice-cream.
Teenage son Dwayne (Paul Dano) hasn't opened his mouth in nine months and writes notes saying 'I hate everyone'.
Into their lives comes suicidal academic uncle Frank (Steve Carell) distraught after dropping to the nation's second-best expert on Proust.
And that's all before we even come to Little Miss Sunshine herself, seven year old Olive (Abagail Breslin) and, just about holding them together, long-suffering mom (Toni Collette).
"Everyone just pretend to be normal," shouts exasperated dad Kinnear, enjoying his best role since 1997's As Good as it Gets.
And without a hint of Little House On The Prairie, it's all about learning from losing in a society obsessed with winners.
Apart from a wonderfully subtle script - don't expect great one-liners - the uniformly excellent performances from a top-notch cast makes this a real winning act.
Co-directors Dayton and Faris and writer Michael Arndt have injected a rich seam of reality check into an increasingly bizarre and frenetic situation.
With Olive a last-minute replacement in the annual Little Miss Sunshine pageant, the family jumps in its beaten-up VW van to head 800 miles.
It's an eventful weekend and the journey for everyone is much more than just the road.
In a sequence of scenes - none of which I want to give away - the movie is in danger of dwindling into daft. There are flaws: Grandpa's swearing, initially a hoot, begins to grate.
But the contest - the sweet and sickly, soporific sort of thing the yanks do so well - is the climax. And watching the little kids dolled up to the nines and acting out their barbie fantasies, you realise perhaps why the adults have turned out the way they have. Which might be the message.
At cinemas across the province