There’s nothing like watching a road trip movie or a movie about a dysfunctional family. How about watching a dysfunctional family on a road trip?
Meet the Hoover family: Richard (Greg Kinnear), a naïve, hypocritical motivational speaker married to a blatantly honest Sheryl (Toni Collette), who has a father with a drug problem (Alan Arkin), a brother, “Uncle Frank,” with suicidal tendencies (Steve Carell), a deliberately mute son (Paul Dano), and a daughter who wants to be “Little Miss Sunshine” even though her features prove plump and unlikely for a beauty pageant.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006) ****
Call it a comedy or a drama, Little Miss Sunshine challenges you to differentiate the two. The plot is pretty simple, but the road trip to the pageant in an old, yellow Volkswagen van is a vehicle (mind the pun) for understanding these characters, relating to them, and sharing stories with them.
Take Uncle Frank for example: He is just adjusting from a psychological rehab after trying to commit suicide because of an ill-ended relationship. Now, we may or may not be able to empathize with Frank, but he is the only one we side with when he exclaims his distrust regarding the ethics of a superficial and hurtful junior beauty pageant.
Take the Nietzsche-reading son, Dwayne: He proves to be the wise one by taking a vow of silence while the rest of the family bickers back and forth between car seats.
Lastly, take heroin addict grandpa who ends up dying on the trip. He is properly stored in the trunk of the van, but he leaves behind the skills and choreography for his granddaughter to perform at the pageant. (Haha, that last sentence just makes me laugh, and I don’t know how else to put it.)
There really isn’t much to dissect here except a family that may be much like our own or one that stores their recently deceased grandfather in the trunk of the van. (It is a hilarious scene, trust me; it involves more understanding and common sense than you would think.)
Besides the stuff-your-dead-grandfather-in-the-trunk part, the life lesson of the movie is to listen before you speak. Laugh. Cry. (I did a little of both.) Your experience with this movie will instigate conversation, but you may be speechless by the end. I think this is a good thing.
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