A Small World After All
As for Little Miss Sunshine, it's the kind of modest, yukky, well-acted, road-traveling American indie that elevates itself by insisting on character notes where a lesser movie would settle for punchlines...but then deflates a little whenever it makes the opposite choice. One scene begins with an unexpected death that was played impressively straight, brilliantly concentrating all of its slapstick impulses into the single exclamation "Linda!" But then, before you know it, a corpse is being tipped out a hospital window in a desperately farcical set-piece almost as unwelcome as the comatose kidnapping in Just Like Heaven. The whole movie is a sine waveup, down, up, downand if its peppy finish offers a winning tribute to the worn-down and halfway absurd American family, it's also the most visually slack passage in the movie, with the least convincing background players. Thank goodness all the main actors stay on their toes, and they keep us there, too. Fans of Toni Collette, so reliably inventive with all her little bits of business, will delight in the knowledge that despite being saddled much too often with the disapproving line "Richard!", she squeezes some cigarette acting, luggage acting, Sprite acting, pencil acting, and popsicle acting into the first fifteen minutes alone. She's still, in a swerve no one saw coming in Muriel's Wedding or Emma or Velvet Goldmine, one of the most convincing moms in the movies. Finally, a few extra props to costume designer Nancy Steiner, who knows exactly what each of the Hoovers would wear, and why, and in exactly what aisle of Target they found it. B
P.S. Considering how StinkyLulu hails from the same state as the Hoover clan, and realizing that I've now met all of the ModFab 6 except for that dismayingly distant Antipodean, par3182, I led myself inexorably to these thoughts: six ModFab apprentices, six Hoovers. Two gals, four fellas in each, plus an Australian. Is Little Miss Sunshine secretly the Rosetta Stone of our dormant but fabulous sextet of culture wags? Is that why this movie keeps magically drawing us together? Dr. S and Melissa, is there any chance of you catching this flick in tandem? And, in the now obvious set of analogies, who is who? A hint: clearly ModFab himself is the Little Miss Sunshine of the title, the unseen beauty whom the rest of us find ourselves chasing, even hoping to be. After that, it gets harder, especially since any. one. of. us. could be the "Superfreak"though I personally have a hunch that she lives in Ohio.
Image © 2006 Fox Searchlight Pictures.