by Erin Salvi
The idea of the disfunctional family is nothing new to cinema, but it is a concept to which practically everyone who has learned to walk and talk can relate. Perhaps this is why film studios and audiences alike seem to reach no point of exhaustion with this genre of movie. While viewing these films amid an audience, one can practically hear every individual thinking, “Yes! God yes! That is my family, right there on the screen, they’ve hit it dead on! Why, why can’t a family just be normal?” This question may someday be answered, but until we do so, films exploring this topic will continue to grace the screens.
The family in Little Miss Sunshine
Olive dreams of winning the “Little Miss Sunshine” pageant, but her entire family must somehow look past their individual issues and band together to get her there. The process is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic journey from New Mexico to California that the family embarks upon in a big yellow bus. Along the way, these imbalanced characters somehow reveal themselves as empathetic creatures. Beneath their hard exteriors, they are fragile, desperate souls trying their hardest to hold together the only thing that has ever provided them with any stability: family. Olive’s trek to become “Little Miss Sunshine” turns out not only to be a young girl’s dream of beauty pageant victory, but her entire family’s search for a way to become something a little greater than they are. They desire to become “winners,” but the tools they have to reach that goal have been jumbled up into the stew that is messy familial relations. Little Miss Sunshine verifies that the old adage is true: it is not the destination, but the journey that really counts. Cliché, perhaps, but this cliché is filled with so much inventive humor and raw familial interaction that you’ll be glad to have gone along for the ride.