TBT #187 | Little Miss Sunshine (2006, Valerie Faris)

Raise your hand everyone who remembers Little Miss Sunshine at some Afternoon Session or on a holiday Sunday! It is simply impossible that most people are not familiar with this great work of dramatic comedy. But the most amazing thing about this film is that it can be enjoyed both as a fun feature, ideal for a rainy afternoon, and by poring over the subtle layers it builds.

In addition, the screenplay, by Michael Arndt, the name also responsible for Wall-E and Toy Story 3, received the Best Original Screenplay award at the 2007 Oscars and at the BAFTAs of the same year. These events also awarded Alan Arkin Best Supporting Actor.

In this sense, Little Miss Sunshine has points that make a lot of difference, and they are the ones I will try to address in the sequel, trying not to be too technical or go on too long. In this way, we will focus on what, for me, stands out the most in this 2006 work.


Little Olive’s dream is to participate in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. For that, she embarks on a fun and touching journey with her father, uncle, grandfather, brother and mother. The family must race against time so that Olive arrives on time and can do the presentation created by her grandfather.


Little Miss Sunshine

I speak for myself when I say that, many times, films that are shot in the Afternoon Session to exhaustion are not of such good quality. However, I chide myself in my statement, as this label makes no sense. If the movie is repeated, it’s probably because many people watch it.

Little Miss Sunshine excels in many ways, but mostly in its ability to convey its essence almost imperceptibly. At first, what stands out in the film is the dysfunctional characteristic of a family that seems to lack an ounce of affinity. However, the personalities of each are not presented, but built, throughout the plot.


I could start with the main character, but I will allow myself to leave it for the end; you will understand why. Interestingly, after the first purchase of the script by the studio Focus Features, they insisted that Arndt center the film on the character of the father of the family, Richard Hoover, played by Greg Kinnear (Blackbird). This was not carried into the final version, and this was probably essential to the film’s success, not because he was an uninteresting character, but because it allowed the rest of the cast to shine.

It is clear that in the first act of the film, it seeks to shed light on the main problems of each family member. A successful coach father who didn’t make it, a cranky, drugged-up grandfather, a rebellious teenager who hates everyone and an uncle who attempted suicide due to a string of failures. How to get a beautiful story out of this catastrophe? Let’s start from the surface, and then we’ll delve deeper.

Photography and Music: The Art of Little Miss Sunshine

Keeping our analysis still on the sensorial, we can easily perceive the happy and pleasant tones with which most of the film is painted. Many shades of yellow, orange and green highlight the simplicity and joy of a child who does not care about “adult problems”. The film is transmitted to us through the eyes of Olive (Abigail Breslin), the protagonist.

In the eyes of an adult, all that happens in the first hour of the movie would be tragedies after tragedies. First, a family in total dissonance, then the van with engine problems, just to mention the beginning. However, despite all the setbacks, in the eyes of little Olive, it’s all a big adventure that will culminate in her presentation in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant.

And so, the entire film takes us through a fun palette, with a yellow kombi almost as the protagonist. In the same way, the melodies of the French serenades, leading with lightness the whole scene that should have more density, end the contrast between drama and comedy.

The intrinsic philosophy

Little Miss Sunshine

It is not by chance that two thinkers and writers are mentioned and remembered throughout the film. Friedrich Nietzsche as an ideal for the character of Paul Dano, the young Dwayne Hoover; on the other hand, Marcel Proust, the heart of Uncle Frank’s study, played brilliantly by Steve Carell.

At first, when we come across Nietzsche’s big canvas in Dwayne’s room, added to the adolescent’s hostile and introverted behavior, we are led to understand that he will take a skeptical and Cartesian approach. On the other hand, on the part of Frank, with Proust, we could suspect that the point is the bucolic spirit of the Frenchman, given the suicide attempt.

But at the end of the film, we realize that it is not one or the other approach that stands out, but the composition of both. It is not nihilism that prevails, but the exploration of literature as a form of liberation, access to the unknown and redemption. In this case, literature is the novel written by Arndt, which extols the poetry of human limitations, but which culminates in the film’s great reflection, ironically brought by the survivor of a suicide attempt, Uncle Frank.

Proust reached the end of his life, looked back and realized that all those years he suffered… those were the best years of his life, because they made him who he was. All the years he was happy? You know, total waste of time. He didn’t learn anything.


Despite, yes, being a little skeptical and not very happy the reflection brought, the real reflection comes next. Dwayne understands that the meaning of all that is that all the mishaps that accompanied the family there, made everyone come together and re-signify some values ​​they brought in their bonds.

Little Miss Sunshine is a class in philosophy, photography, art… and on top of all that, it’s simple, it’s funny and subtle. As through the eyes of a child. And that’s why this feature was brought in this TBT. To be praised for everything you do, in a simple but striking way, as if built under the care of a child.

You can watch Little Miss Sunshine through Star+.

5.0 / 5.0

Watch the subtitled trailer of Little Miss Sunshine:

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