Sunday, January 22, 2012

We're Trying: Little Miss Sunshine

Grandpa: Whoa whoa whoa, back up a minute. D'you know what a loser is? A REAL loser is someone whose so afraid of not winning, they don't even TRY. Now you're trying right?

Olive: Yeah.

Grandpa: Well, then you're not a loser! We're gonna have fun tomorrow, right?

Olive: [smiling] Yeah.

Grandpa: We can tell 'em all to go to hell.

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Farris’ Little Miss Sunshine is one of my all time favorite films.  I’ll admit, most of my friends find its content a little disturbing.  For the past few years, each time I debated this topic, I failed to construct a cogent argument to defend my admiration for the production. Despite my inability to support my position, every time I watch Little Miss Sunshine, I swallow back tears and end the film feeling warm and content.  This is a strange response because the narrative is one of determination and nonconformity being met with pain and loss not happiness. Tonight, however, I finally stumbled upon why Little Miss Sunshine makes me smile. The story brings together a dysfunctional group of misfits: a suicidal academic, a failed entrepreneur, a frazzled housewife, a heroin snorting patriarch, a self-made mute teen, and a tiny, untalented beauty queen.  Simultaneously, they tear at themselves and tear at each other.  Yet, in the midst of all this hurt and confusion, each member of the group works to protect the others. The Super Freak clip below illustrates what I mean.

To me, the Super Freak scene symbolizes how we protect the people we love.  While Olive will lose that beauty contest, she will not lose her self confidence or identity.  Her family will not allow that.  Instead of caving to the judges pressure and pulling Olive off the stage (thereby humiliating her), her uncle, father, and brother fend off the naysayers and dance in solidarity beside her.  In my opinion, that is the definition of love and friendship.  We all fuck up. (I am the Fuck Up Queen)  And when we crash and burn, 95% of the population, including our friends and relations, disappear.  Another 4% stay close by, not to help us, but to offer advice and reprimand for our shortcomings.  You can’t pay those people to go away. But its the moments when we break down, when we fuck up, when we need forgiveness the most, that we find out who we can count on. We find our real family.  It’s that 1% who matter. Those are the people that see you up on that stage making a fool of yourself and rather than clapping politely, they fight off the judges, stand beside you, distract the angry crowd, and dance in solidarity.  In my book, that’s called love and its why Little Miss Sunshine is awesome. Because a real loser is someone who doesn't even try. We're tryin' right?

Note: Just a quick recommendation but anyone who enjoys Little Miss Sunshine should also check out Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine. (Though Blue Valentine is a more serious in tone and depressing in nature) Fun Quote from that film below: (Indeed, what a luxury, says the academic)
Cindy: I'd like to see you have a job where you didn't have to start drinking at 8 o'clock in the morning.
Dean: No, I have a job that allows me to drink at 8 o'clock in the morning. What a luxury, you know?

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