Little Miss Sunshine (Dayton, Faris, 2006)

[Note: This will be more of a rant than a review.]

Let’s get one thing straight. Little Miss Sunshine is not an independent film. It has stars, a solid production value, and marketing campaign bound to con Academy voters into selecting it for countless undeserved nominations. Oh yeah, and it cost 8 million dollars to make. But this is what passes for “independent” in today’s Hollywood. It’s a shame films like Half Nelson and Twelve and Holding will never attain the same notoriety, mainly because they don’t have false happy endings, recognizable players, or the backing of major studios come Oscar time. Little Miss Sunshine sings a tune audience’s can easily recognize, pandering to a quirkiness that thanks to Wes Anderson, has plagued the film market just as much as Tarantino’s violence aesthetic did in the 1990’s. Little Miss Sunshine‘s worst sin involves it’s formal manipulation, using music to cue false emotion and deadpan acting to initiate a supposed uniqueness in character. I’m all for grand music to garner genuine feeling, hell I love Speilberg. But don’t come on like you’re some edgy black comedy and then pull your punches. So much pain, so much angst, so much silence, all so familiar. While screenwriter Michael Arndt’s heart is in the right place (Olive stands alone with Alan Arkin’s grandpa as the only true characters in the film), the rest of the filmmaking screams of banality. Little Miss Sunshine plays it safe, a boring and completely predictable Hollywood calling card. That’s all fine and dandy, just don’t call yourself independent, because you’re insulting the true indy filmmakers in the process.[Note #2: I appreciate John Sayles and Jim Jarmusch even more after watching this film.]


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