Monday, November 23, 2009

Little Miss Sunshine

In keeping with my latecoming to most pop culture, I'm probably actually still a couple years "early" to see Little Miss Sunshine - but this arrived last week, and I did wait several days before viewing it. That will have to do.

It's a perfectly nice movie, but ... I have to admit some confusion as to how the "buzz" on this one got so breathless. I guess perfectly nice is pretty stunning, to your moronic Hollywood types, when considering anything produced outside The System. Either that, or quirk still hadn't worn out its mealy welcome by 2006.

For me, the quirk isn't so much bothersome as symptomatic. There are scenes in this movie - and quite a few of them - in which action occurs specifically for the writers to accomplish certain goals. They have things they want Said, with a capital S - and so grampa's gotta die, the bus has to be a rustbucket, whatever-whatever. The trope must be served, and the quirks exist more to make that happen than they do in any realistic way.

To be sure: I'm very well aware that "realistic" is beside the point, in most movies. And it can be said that, frankly, holding ANY movie character to the standard of "what could happen" (or what "would") isn't my interest. LMS is entertaining enough, I wouldn't dis-recommend it to a potential viewer.

But I wasn't nearly as entertained as, apparently, Everyone Else was.

I like Alan Arkin (beats Adam), I think the casting and production were good. I liked the low-key setting for all the quirks. I was just surprised at how utterly sitcom-keyed so many of the turns of events were.

Suicidal Uncle has just been dumped - we're treated to not one, but repeated, instances of his being directly faced with the parties of his humiliation. And he's a SUB-plot. Asking us to swallow a single coincidence is a bit much; asking us to suspend disbelief through on-the-nose confrontations several times in a row - again, for a b-plot - is just punitive. Not to mention ham-fisted. By the time we see the full-page ad about "the number one Proust scholar" in Act Three, I had bruises about my head and shoulders from the beating I'd taken from Carell's character's humiliations.

And his incredible equanimity and positivity in facing them - considering he was supposed to have been SUICIDAL the DAY this film commences (and it comprises only about three days in its own running time).


The one quirk I had to take exception to was the teenager with the Vow of Silence.

I've met some d*mned pretentious teens. I've been one. This "character" took a whole cake, gave it stuffing, grabbed a fork and stuck it in the audience's eye, ate the cake, farted icing-scented fumes of disgust, and slumped sulking into a corner.

Which is a huge waste and a shame - because, by the time he faces HIS crisis (everybody's got one - even the guy who dies; though he's the *one* character who doesn't really face up to his own problems or deal with them honorably really), he turns out to be muuuuuuuuch more interesting. And well acted. Poor Paul Dano, being stuck with a silly gag for two-thirds of a film he could have apparently grounded a little, in a good way.

Like I say, it's a nice enough film. But I gather it was MUCH re-written. I could hear this happening, louder than anything I've watched since "The Mask" (which I hated with a white-knuckle annoyance). Again, not the worst thing in the world - unless, of course, the medium of one's entertainment is predicated on, oh, willing suspension of disbelief ...

It was perfectly nice. I think slobbering on something so insubstantial is probably unwise - how could it maintain cohesive integrity? It's made of papier mache' - which can be moulded to great effect. But which isn't designed, really, to be tongue-jobbed quite so heavily.

Maybe that is the problem (I'm dubious). Maybe my viewing came, with the lens of this film's initial reception, laden with too many expectations.

I really don't think this is the problem.

I think it is a perfectly nice film.

And, apparently, perfectly nice films really don't do it for me very deeply.

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