Little Miss Brilliant
So I went into Little Miss Sunshine somewhat predisposed to be disappointed.
And, for a while, I was. The dysfunctional American family long ago became indie cliche, and the movie -- while often very funny in its first 30 minutes -- is not exactly immune to its own quirky formula.
But then something wonderful happened.
I fell in love with the movie. Seriously fell in love with it.
I think the thunderbolt hit me in the scene that finds Olive (Abigail Breslin), our 7-year-old wannabe beauty pageant winner, resting her head on the shoulder of her angst-ridden brother, Dwayne (Paul Dano). They are in the California desert, and Dwayne has had something of a mental breakdown (a number of characters seem to have quite a few of 'em in the film). But then Olive and Dwayne share a silent moment of affection, and all is forgiven.
It is a subtle moment in a film that doesn't particularly revere subtlety, but for me it encapsulates the overriding truth of the movie. Families are Petri dishes of pettiness, resentment, slights, fears, old grudges and insecurities. And yet it is such stuff that makes families so alive and essential.
There is so much more in this movie -- comedy, poignancy, power, outrageousness, humanity -- but that one scene is when I realized I had fallen madly in love with Little Miss Sunshine.
And it wasn't because the movie has brains or personality. It's because it's so beautiful.