Saturday, February 10, 2007

Review: Little Miss Sunshine

A Fox Searchlight release 2006

Directed by
Jonathan Dayton
Valerie Faris

Written by Michael Arndt

A family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus.

I avoided this film when it came out in theaters because it was hyped as the indie movie of the year and everyone told me I would love it. My friends told me I would love it. My parents told me I would love it. My grandparents told me I would love it, even though they didn't understand it and we never like the same movies anyway, unless they were made before 1965. So, I decided not to see it; nary a dissenting word makes nervous.

Little Miss Sunshine is the product of a post-Napoleon Dynamite world, a world with a pastel colors and where Sufjan Stevens is the soundtrack to our lives. Even though it took five years to make, the film seems like a pretty safe bet; the characters are likeable despite their nasty tics, and the script is critical of our success driven society while remaining supportive of the core American values of family and togetherness. The performances here are what really sell it. Nearly everyone in this film is film is on target, delivering top-notch characterizations that are effectingly real. All in all, it's a likeable film despite its somewhat heavy tone and is certainly refreshing compared to typical Hollywood fare.

But there are a few things about Little Miss Sunshine that bother me and I really wished they'd go away. Take a look at this clip:

Notice anything? Let your eyes focus on the right hand side of the screen. Nearly every single shot features the exact same composition: a horizonal plane somewhere in the middle with a vertical line split at the center off to the right. That vertical line drives me nuts. It's comes in the form of telephone poles, trees, stoplights, character placement, you name it. It was either a conscious decision by the directors or is simply a sign of poor visual construction, but it's always there. And such a limited visual vocabulary is extremely detrimental not only to a film, but future films as well. The static shots somewhat work here but I forsee many knock-offs of this in the future, and that is not good.

Also, why can't anyone make a dark indie comedy that doesn't have an ironic dance sequence at the end?

This movie is going to win a ton of awards and that is fine, if people take it's screenwriting and performances as serious examples and not the limited visual scope or kitchy direction. While certainly enjoyable, it's probably not something I would want to sit through again, but I may be alone on that. Either way, it's refreshing when a film from outside of Hollywood that at least does something right gets a little recognition. Hopefully it will result in the mainstream's realization that characters - not special effects or crazy storylines - make a movie.

No comments: