#7 Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

While I’ve come down quite a bit from my Breaking Bad high in recent months, one of the side effects has been paying attention a lot more to Bryan Cranston’s work. I watched Malcolm in the Middle in its original run, but rarely watched reruns after it ended way back in 2006. Instead of occasionally seeing Tim Whatley on Seinfeld, now I’ve been watching Hal do his thing before transitioning into the blue (although some of the things here may have you wondering what he was doing at work).

Anyway, Little Miss Sunshine came on IFC right after Malcolm one night so I left it on as it’s one of my favorite movies. I’m unsure how I came to watch this movie in the first place, since I definitely saw it not long after its initial release. I would guess that Steve Carell’s appearance had something to do with it especially coming off the success of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. This movie is about an Albuquerque family (another Breaking Bad connection), setting aside their personal issues to take a road trip to Redondo Beach, California so that the darling Olive can compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant.

The filmmakers made it a point to establish that this was far from a traditional family (then again, what’s really traditional?). A suicidal Frank was now to stay with his sister Sheryl, living with her son from a previous marriage Dwayne, young daughter Olive, the aspiring motivational speaker husband Richard and his crotchety father Edwin. Sheryl could’t possibly handle another burden as she now is the primary watcher of her brother as well as the bread maker due to her husband’s inability to sell his program. Then she gets a call saying that due to a contestant dropping out, Olive qualified for the pageant. All are reluctant to make this trip, but because the primary beneficiary is Olive they agree to go.

Considering that in this world now we have Honey Boo Boo (even the show that spawned her success, Toddlers in Tiaras, didn’t come for another few years after this movie’s release), Olive’s character was quite unique. It certain was my first exposure to child pageantry, but this was a true underdog. Cute, but really not at all the beauty contest type. Considering all the events in the film regarding the individual family members goals, was Olive destined for victory after all? Well no, in fact she gets banned from competing in pageants in the state of California, but she went all in. While not having much of a precedent in that world, it isn’t much different from your Miss Americas or Universes, except grossly undersized. Olive’s routine was developed by her grandfather and in the end serves as a tribute and kind of a middle finger to the primped and polished beauty competition. She even got a few fans in the sound engineer and the guy with the ear plugs on.

The moral of the movie is if things are going sour, just remember you can always just dance them away with your family. This film serves up quite a bit of wisdom and joy in what at times feels like only doom strikes this group, but in the funner “I don’t give a fuck” way. Back to Bryan Cranston…while promoting Argo recently he mentioned that he read the script for Little Miss Sunshine and sought to get in on it. So he took on the very brief appearing, but oft spoken of, role of Stan Grossman, the man that would attempt to get funding for Richard’s self-help program. I as well as Alan Arkin apparently, didn’t realize he was in it too. In addition before becoming a DEA agent, Dean Norris was a traffic cop and also a little spot from Mary Lynn Rajskub.

Like it. Like it. Like it.

-Mikhail

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