I was delighted to see Little Miss Sunshine in my alphabet soup of Best Original Screenplay winners, as it is one of my favorite films. Released in 2006, it has an all-star ensemble cast who play a family focused on getting to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in Redondo Beach, California. This involves a cross-country road trip from Albuquerque to the coast in an old yellow VW van. The film is rated R for language, some sex and drug content.
Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) wins a minor beauty pageant in her hometown and is invited to attend the contest of Little Miss Sunshine. Her parents, Sheryl (Toni Collette) and Richard (Greg Kinnear), agree to take her there, but must also take the rest of their family along with them.
Dwayne (Paul Dano) is their voluntarily mute teenage son focused on becoming a pilot in the air force; Frank (Steve Carell) is Sheryl’s gay brother, recently recovering from a serious suicide attempt; and Grandpa (Alan Arkin) is Richard’s grandfather, living with them after having been kicked out of his retirement home.
When a film’s characters talk about philosophers such as Proust and Nietzsche, you know it’s not your typical Hollywood story. Michael Arndt won Best Original Screenplay as the writer of this delightful and intelligent comedy. Alan Arkin won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Grandpa.
There is so much to laugh about, even though the comedy is a bit dark at times. Richard is a perpetual optimist, set on becoming the next big self help guru, helping winners succeed through using his nine steps, no less. Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) appears as Stan Grossman, Richard’s business contact that he hopes will be able to get his nine-step work published.
Olive practices diligently on her dancing routine, which is coached by her Grandpa. The film culminates in typical beauty pageant fashion where little girls compete in swimsuits, gowns and in the talent category. Since we never get to actually see Olive and Grandpa rehearse, the delightful debut of Olive on stage is even more exciting than you could imagine, along with many other surprises along the way.
The family has to push and pull together to help Olive meet her goals. This is an entertaining film that I love to watch. Although the family lives in Albuquerque, it was filmed in Arizona and California. It has a good pace and everyone’s individual lives are focused on and showcased during the trip and the action. The well-known cast does a wonderful job with this story.
Abigail Breslin was off to a good start in this film, as she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets), Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense), and Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) have all been nominated for Oscars in the films I just listed, and I don’t doubt that Paul Dano will be next. Look for more films by these wonderful actors and actresses; you won’t be disappointed.