Little Miss Sunshine
Review By: Ryan Piccirillo
Itís interesting to see what happens when music video directors move over to the feature film sector. Their tendencies almost always lean towards surrealism. I like to call it the ďCharlie Kaufman condition.Ē His scripts are brilliant and the photography in his films is mind-bendingly seductive. You can thank his friends, directors Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze for their psychedelic spectacles. Their music video rťsumťs give them an altered sense of what looks good on film, and the outcomes are an unexpected glimpse into the mind of the characters. I have a soft spot for their work, but Iíve been waiting for something that is equally startling yet embraces honesty and unmitigated realism.
Well, itís here, kids. Married co-directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, bring us Little Miss Sunshine. Itís their first film, but their catalog of music videos (including the award winning Tonight, Tonight by The Smashing Pumpkins) prove to be all that was necessary to produce a film thatís unforgettable. Little Miss Sunshine is their triumphant launch pad into what I hope will be a long and intimate relationship with the film industry. They were lucky enough to team up with screenwriter, Michael Arndt for their first movie. This is also Arndtís first time up, but his script screams out something different. Little Miss Sunshine reads as if itís the apex of his career. I donít mean to say this is a Godfather or a Citizen Kane. Itís too delicate and the subject matter isnít lavish enough. But itís so successful because of the scriptís flair for balance. Some of its scenes are emotionally heavy, but it never gets sappy in a movie that is first and foremost a comedy. Itís so successful because of its idiosyncratic wit. It keeps you laughing even through the most touching moments of the film without ever preventing you from feeling the dramatic affects. Itís so successful because of its message of the importance of family, the idea of prosperity, and subjective beauty.
Little Miss Sunshine redefines what we should expect from the road trip movie. It keeps itself away from the silly slapstickiness of National Lampoonís Vacation and the melodrama of a movie like Thelma and Louise. The film shocks the genreís body and revives it with uncommon and compounded characters, and a fresh, but timeless humor. It reminds us of whatís fundamental to our lives and whatís trivial to the big picture. It makes us search for the humor even in lifeís tallest hurdles. When all else collapses.