Magazine article The Spectator

Accentuate the Positive

Magazine article The Spectator

Accentuate the Positive

Article excerpt

Little Miss Sunshine 15, selected cinemas

Oh good, a recommendation. While I freely admit I do enjoy delivering the odd bashing, I feel more useful when proposing positive action. Writing, 'For heaven's sake spare your £10' makes my brain feel momentarily curdled, but to write, 'You'll love this film' gives me a warm feeling inside.

It is a particular pleasure to recommend a film which has cost practically nothing to Little Miss Sunshine boasts an adult cast which is mighty and yet modest: I cannot for a moment imagine Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets), Toni Collette (Muriel's Wedding), Alan Arkin (Glengarry Glen Ross) or Steve Carell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin) getting into one of those ridiculous arguments about whose trailer is biggest.

'Little Miss Sunshine' is the title of a children's beauty pageant in which seven-yearold Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) is invited, by a fluke, to compete. Olive is not a conventional child beauty, being shortsighted and on the podgy side, but she is desperate to take part and has been coached by her grandfather (Alan Arkin) to perform a show-stopping routine. Her father Richard (Greg Kinnear) is a motivational speaker whose motto is 'refuse to lose', and once he is convinced Olive has the necessary bottle he will do anything to get her to California in time for the competition. Due to a set of complicated circumstances, the entire family is forced to accompany Olive, and so she, her Grandpa, her father Richard, her mother Sheryl (Toni Collette), her teenage brother Dwayne and Uncle Frank (Sheryl's brother, who has just been released from hospital after attempting suicide) set off from Albequerque for California in their VW camper van, which almost immediately develops a set of nervous tics to rival its occupants'.

At the start of the picture the Hoovers are a family in name alone, a collection of opposites whom Sheryl tries but fails to unite over a fried-chicken dinner. Richard determinedly sees himself as one of life's winners and is frustrated by his relatives, whom he suspects might be losers and therefore barely tolerable. Lanky teenager Dwayne has taken a vow of silence 'because of Friedrich Nietzsche' and has not spoken for six months, instead writing on a small white notepad (sample script: 'I hate everybody') when he wishes to communicate. …

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