A Funny Thing Happened

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Reviews the film, Little Miss Sunshine directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (2006). This film, written by Michael Arndt and directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, focuses on our concern with winning. At the beginning of the film, we see Richard Hoover (played by Greg Kinnear), who is trying to start a new career as a motivational speaker, deliver his talk on the nine steps to becoming a winner. His motto is “Refuse to lose.” The ideas that “You can win if you really want to” and “You can be whatever you want to be” have always struck me, an immigrant to North America, as doctrines of the most austere rigor. Along with Richard, there are five other members of the Hoover family. Mom Sheryl (Toni Collette) puts a cardboard bucket of fried chicken on the table at every dinner time and urges everyone to eat at least a bit of salad. Richard and Sheryl's daughter is Olive (Abigail Breslin), age 7, a cute girl with a round face and slightly plump body. She aspires to be a beauty queen. Then there is her Grandpa (played by Alan Arkin), a heroin-snorting dirty old man. Next is Frank (Steve Carell), brother of Sheryl, who has recently failed in a suicide attempt. Most of the movie is a road trip, the goal of which is to take Olive from her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to a California beauty competition for seven-year-olds, which has unexpectedly accepted her as an entrant. When she hears this news, she becomes extremely excited. Although Olive is no beauty queen, the family decides that, despite the competition being held in only two days time, of course she must go. And she must win, and they will all help her to do so. So what might we, the moviegoers, recognize? As the final scene plays, we notice what a funny thing it is that, like the family, we too have gone along with the barmy idea that a decent little girl should be rushed 800 miles to take part in a beauty contest for seven-year-old sexpots. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved)

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