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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Catch This Ray of Sunshine

Toni Collete and Steve Carell making a hasty exit
Toni Collete and Steve Carell making a hasty exit

Nestled in the indie-film niche at the culmination of the summer’s film frenzy, and between the likes of Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Snakes on a Plane, shines a brilliant beam of sunshine: Little Miss Sunshine, that is.

Released by Fox Searchlight, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, and written by Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine follows a simple premise: a dysfunctional family heads out on a road trip to take their youngest member, Olive (played magnificently by Abigail Breslin of Signs) to a child beauty pageant in California.

Sunshine’s take on the ‘road trip movie plot’, latent with catastrophes that arise from being in transit, is familiar territory.Two things about the movie stand out: the characters’ absurd eccentricity, and the undeniably genuine performance of the talented ensemble cast.

This movie might raise eyebrows mostly because of funny-man Steve Carell’s leading role. His portrayal of Frank-forlorn, former #1 Proust scholar in the U.S., spurned by a male graduate students and just released from the hospital for attempted suicide-departs from his typical comic characters.

Carell’s Frank is quite funny, but the role is played with remarkable control, showing as much seriousness and tenderness as comedic sensibility. The actor doesn’t lose the geekiness he’s known for, but he showcases an unexpected ability for complex and honest performance-I was impressed by 40 Year Old Virgin, but didn’t know he had this in him.

Suicidal, Proust proffering Frank, may be the sanest of Little Miss Sunshine’s dysfunctional family. Richard, the father (Greg Kinnear), is an adamant wannabe-life coach whose “9 Steps to Success” provides the frightening framework for interaction with his family and his life, but fails in and of itself. Oldest son, Dwayne (Paul Dano), is a devout Nietzschean under a vow of spoken silence until he can enter the Air Force as a test pilot, communicating only by written memos. Grandpa (Alan Arkin!!!) snorts heroin, advocates rampant sexual activity, coaches Olive’s dance routine, and is an avid porn fan.

Olive herself is the dorky yet loveable youngest, aiming to win a child beauty pageant. Her innocence and astute inquiries into life moderate the family’s insanity. Last, loving mother Sheryl Sheryl (Toni Collette), holds everyone, including Frank together.

The dynamics delight, the chemistry’s spot-on. One silent scene focuses on a hug between Olive and Dwayne; it’s a scene you feel. The fact that the bus they quest on won’t start unless all of them push together to get it rolling is not only always hilarious, but also symbolic of the relationship that develops between all of them on their trip. Both Little Miss Sunshine and her family will earn your admiration.