Saturday, December 16, 2006

little miss sunshine

I'm a little late on this, but finally watched "Little Miss Sunshine" on the plane from Singapore to London.
I guess you’ve all read the excellent reviews this movie has been receiving, and they're well deserved.
This is a sweet, or should I say, bittersweet movie, a poignant human comedy about the Hoovers, a dysfunctional family traveling from Arizona to California in an old VW bus, trying to make it to the "Little Miss Sunshine", a pre-pubescent beauty pageant contest, the dream of Olive, the seven-year-old daughter.
The cast is excellent. Greg Kinnear plays a (not so successful) motivational speaker who splits the world between "winners" and "losers", and who desperately tries not to fall in the latter category; Alan Arkin is the foul-mouthed, cocaine snorting grandpa (who proves to be an anarchist and a prophetic sage in the end); Paul Dano is the rebellious teenage son who made a vow of silence and hasn’t spoken in nine months; Steve Carell, excellent as the depressive, suicidal uncle, the number one Proust scholar in the world, who brings a bit of much needed perspective to the whole absurdity of the situations; Toni Collette, as the exasperated mother who tries to hold the family together; and the unforgettable girl, the sweet Abigail Breslin, all innocence and wonder, who like most girls of her age, dreams of being a beauty queen.
But despite the reviews praising it as being a road movie with soul, I think they slightly missed one important underlying theme.
This is as much a road movie as it is a movie about raising kids in our days. In many moments, the directors (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Farris) invite us to think about the difficult dilemmas we face in raising a child nowadays.
What is “right”, and what is “wrong”? Is there "right" and "wrong"?
Do we let them find out for themselves some of the world’s ugly truths or do we protect them?
Do we nurture their dreams, impossible as they might be, or do we give them a dose of reality?
Do we impose our preconceived ideas of how things should be or do we let them rewrite the rules?
There's a scene when Olive, in a moment of self-doubt, hesitantly asks, "grandpa, am I pretty?”. At that very moment, when she asks a question probably every woman asks when growing up, she reminds us how susceptible children are to our actions. For an adult it's just a nod, or a glance of disapproval here, maybe a sarcastic comment there, but for a child they can mean a world of difference, the difference between a confident, bubbling child, and an insecure one.
The movie’s end (I won't spoil it for you) reminded me Sir Ken Robinson presentation at TED. He said about children: "if they don't know, they'll have a go". As parents, I guess, this is all we can hope for. That they will have a go.


mz said...

excellent review.
i watched the film and thought it was great; but never made much of it. :)

Alex said...

"It is not a slight thing when they,
who are so fresh from God,love us."
Charles Dickens

Nelson said...

thanks for the comments guys. mz, I'm glad you see the movie with other eyes now. And Alex, thanks for the Dickens quote. I'm certainly gonna use this from now on. Cheers, Nelson.