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Little Miss Sunshine

February 13, 2017

lmsEach of the family members is, in one way or another, grappling with darkness in their own lives. Indeed, the script does a commendable job of presenting distinct characters—each person a universe of motivations and morals unto themselves—instead of presenting them as one griping and moaning familial mass. As such, different viewers are likely to resonate with different characters. And yet, the bond forged by their proximity to each other—by the fact they’re family—is undeniable. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the broken down VW van eventually requires a group effort to get in gear.

Gradually we see the family unite under the goal of seeing Olive realize her dream of competing in the pageant. Unlike many such movies, we do see the characters grow as they move beyond the bickering and selfishness. Clever and comical “Little Miss Sunshine” gives us the Hoover family’s broken dreams in all their dysfunctional glory. Yet the film doesn’t let us pity them as they learn to find some happiness overcoming some of their flaws.

Hilarious and touching, earthy comedy-drama about family dysfunction and personal ambition amid the disturbing world of child beauty contests.

Dad Richard is struggling to motivate his career as a motivational speaker.

Richard, addicted to his self-actualizing mantras, doesn’t seem to realize the emotional damage his “be a winner” is doing to his daughter Olive and isn’t taken seriously by the rest of the family.

Grandpa has no qualms about saying whatever foul and abrasive thing that pops into his head.

lms2Teenager Dwayne has taken a vow of silence until he realizes his dream to become a fighter pilot. He wears a shirt that says “Jesus Was Wrong.” He is also a devotee of Fredrick Nietzsche, although the movie never really goes into what Nietzsche believed.

Mom Sheryl is just trying to hold everything together.

Sheryl’s depressed and suicidal brother Frank must live with the family when his insurance will no longer pay for his stay in a mental institution.

Five identical Volkswagen Type 2s were used during filming.

Larry Sugarman’s license plate reads, “LostTime” a reference to Marcel Proust’s most famous work, “À la recherche du temps perdu,” which is often translated as “In Search of Lost Time.”

Family dysfunction – The notion of ‘family dysfunction’ probably applies much more widely than some people think. The struggles posed by conflict between family members can be overwhelming

Personal ambition – The prevailing values of society suggest that each of us should try to become as wealthy as we can through our own personal ambition and effort. This often leads to unnecessary stress, illness, family breakdown, and even premature death.

Suicide and depression – Depression affects a huge number of people, for a vast range of reasons. The suicidal character in Little Miss Sunshine has both a broken heart and a troubled career.

Childhood innocence – Little Miss Sunshine focuses on a child whose innocence is being stolen by adults who, for whatever reason, organise public contests to evaluate how children look. The pressure of the ‘beauty myth’ now starts earlier than ever, and child beauty contests are only the tip of the iceberg – the sexualization of children is evident in our culture – from the fashion being aimed at pre-teens, to the role models offered by young adult celebrities.

Forgiveness – The family in Little Miss Sunshine have a lot about which to be angry with each other. Yet the film sees them finding reconciliation, not through any explicit repentance/forgiveness, but through bonding together toward a common goal – that of protecting their weakest member from harm.

We all dream of being something more than we can possibly be, because we aren’t nearly the creatures we are supposed to be.

We are limited by our sin and the effects of sin in the world.

We do things out of love, but sometimes these things are not all that appropriate (Grandpa taught her the only dance he was familiar with); it’s a good thing that the love in our intentions is powerful enough to eclipse the inadequacy of the results.

To be naïve is not the same as to be innocent.

Even in our brokenness we can be a blessing to others.

Actions are more powerful than words (the scene where Olive brings Duane back into the bus), and that’s why the Incarnation is so incredible.

Human beings were made for community and within community we can transcend our individual weaknesses.

Grace, forgiveness and LOVE are incredibly powerful.

Self-sacrifice is fundamental to the expression of love.

Suffering is important for growth.

The world’s standard for winners and losers is completely wrong.

There is a loving presence at the centre of the universe that orchestrates all things for out good.

Life is tragic and beautiful and also pretty funny.

Grandpa: A real loser is someone who’s so afraid of not winning he doesn’t even try.


Dwayne: I wish I could just sleep until I was eighteen and skip all this crap-high school and everything-just skip it.

Frank: Do you know who Marcel Proust is?

Dwayne: He’s the guy you teach.

Frank: Yeah. French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he’s also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh… he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, Those were the best years of his life, ’cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn’t learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you’re 18… Ah, think of the suffering you’re gonna miss. I mean high school? High school-those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that.


[from trailer] Olive: Grandpa, am I pretty?

Grandpa: You are the most beautiful girl in the world.

Olive: You’re just saying that.

Grandpa: No! I’m madly in love with you and it’s not because of your brains or your personality.


Richard: Oh my God, I’m getting pulled over. Everyone, just… pretend to be normal.


Richard: There’s two kinds of people in this world, there’s winners and there’s losers. Okay, you know what the difference is? Winners don’t give up.


Richard: Sarcasm is the refuge of losers.

Frank: [sarcastically] It is? Really?

Richard: Sarcasm is losers trying to bring winners down to their level.

Frank: [sarcastically] Wow, Richard, you’ve really opened my eyes to what a loser I am. How much do I owe you for those pearls of wisdom?

Richard: Oh, that ones on the house.

Dwayne: You know what? Fuck beauty contests. Life is one fucking beauty contest after another. You know, school, then college, then work, fuck that. And fuck the air force academy. If I wanna fly, I’ll find a way to fly. You do what you love, and fuck the rest.

Frank: I’m glad you’re talking again, Dwayne. You’re not nearly as stupid as you look.


Grandpa: Losers are people who are so afraid of not winning, they don’t even try.

Olive: Do you think there’s a Heaven?

Frank: Well, it’s hard to say, Olive. I don’t think anyone knows for sure.

Olive: I know, but what do *you* think?

Frank: Well… um… uh…

Olive: I think there is.

Frank: Think I’ll get in?

Olive: Yeah.

Frank: Promise?

Olive: Yeah.

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