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So, RE my goal of posting occasionally, I shall write a review analysis of Little Miss Sunshine, which I've just re-watched.

Damn but I love this movie. I think it's the only low-budget, artsy-ish movie I've ever seen that leaves me feeling uplifted and happy, rather than depressed.

Now I watched this, expecting to cringe at the ending, like I did the first time I watched it - it just seemed so out of place, and really cartoonish and silly compared to some of the very real seriousness of the rest of the movie. It almost seemed like the ending descended into Not Very Good Filmmaking.

This time I Got It. I had been a bit confused, because the main theme was all over the place during the movie. Switching back and forth between Society Blows, It's More Important To Try Than Succeed, Live Life To The Fullest (Do What You Want), Individuality, Sticking It To the Man, and, obviously, Family Is Important.
On first viewing, I saw these themes, but I saw them as a sort of battle between each to see which would come out on top. Now I see how they're all interconnected. The trick is to look at the family members and their relationships with each other (and especially Olive), and the personal changes each goes through in the space of a weekend.

Dad - starts as the antagonist of the family, in that everyone (except Olive) is against him. See the ice cream scene - as horrible as he is being toward Olive, the rest of the family undermines him and coerces Olive into eating her ice cream. But at the end, he's the first one to leap onto the stage to dance. Also notably, his Nine Step Program is portrayed as ridiculous, irritating, and probably not a good basis to raise a child on, but in the scene where they steal Grandpa's body, Dad uses the nine steps in a positive way, when he is determined to get Olive to the pageant no matter what. His major change occurs when he realizes he didn't get the deal, and his program isn't going to take off.

Brother - starts as the outsider of the family,  this role emphasized to the point that he is entirely silent, and doesn't communicate with any member of the family, except Uncle and Olive, and then only through writing. At the end of the movie he's talking again, and he dances on stage with Olive, and he demonstrates that he cares for his family by trying to protect Olive, both at the pageant, and earlier at the gas station when he's the only one who realizes Olive isn't there - which shows less his change, and more the way Olive his his exception to his rule of "hate everyone". His change happens when he discovers that he's colour blind, and he's forced to reevaluate his goal, and decides to find a way to fly anyway, fuck the air force. The fucked-upitude of the pageant helps him make his decision, helps him realize that he doesn't have to conform - there's always something else he can do.

Grandpa - starts as the guy who tells it like it is, and doesn't give a damn about what anyone thinks, except maybe Olive. Ends as the inspiration to the family, and, really, the main reason for the ending. He doesn't really have a change - the change is in how everyone percieves him after he dies, but I think the seed of that, at least, is his consolation to Dad after Dad loses his deal.

Mom - Starts off as harried working housewife who's starting to hate her family. Ends with her loving her family wholly again. I don't think it was the moment of change, again, this was more of a slow thing, but the defining moment of her change is her smile as she sees the rest of the family dancing on stage, and jumps up to join them. It's a simple, "I remember why I love them now," moment, and gorgeous, if you see it.

Uncle - starts off the movie as... he's tricky to place. I'd say something like the foil of the family, but with a definite outsider flavour. In the scene at the dinner table, every member of the family is defined by their interactions with him - Dad when he explains to Olive that her uncle tried to kill himself because he's a loser, Mom when she takes him home, and has no idea how to deal with him, as seen when she tells him to leave the door open, Grandpa when he's generally amiable towards him while bitching about everything, Brother when he has a short "conversation" with him, and Olive when she demonstrates her curiosity and near-imperviousness to the tension in the family around her when she asks about his bandages. 
He ends the movie as simply another member of the family - also very much happier and far less depressed than before. His change is another tricky one, as it's just a gradual thing induced by the family and the road trip, and Olive.

The Bus - as it falls apart, the family grows together. 

Olive - Doesn't change. This is notable, not just because everyone else does, but because the entire family was expecting her to at the end. Her expected change should've happened at the pageant, and should've been negative - major loss of confidence, etc. But it didn't happen. She was sunny, bright, and very glue-like RE the family in the beginning, and remains so in the end. Also notable is the fact that her lack of change happened directly because each family member did change - before the road trip, they would never've gotten on stage with Olive, but they changed and they did.

Now, each of the themes above is newly introduced after various character's changes - for instance, we only get the Society Blows theme after Brother's change. We get It's More Important to Try Than Succeed from Grandpa, but it's only agreed with by Dad after his opinion of the man changes. Live Life to the Fullest is shared by Uncle and Brother on the docks, and Family Matters only comes through at the end after each change.

Now, once you see how the changes are connected to each other, and to themes, and to the very last, most important theme of all of "Fuck Other People's Opinions, People You Care About Are More Important", you realize what a brilliantly awesome movie this is. At least I did.

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little_aphid

May 2009

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