Little Miss Sunshine – Essay
Little Miss Sunshine directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, is about a family whose cross country journey to the Little Miss Sunshine child beauty pageant teaches them, and the viewer, that real life is about relationships and that these are more important than simplistic notions of winning or losing. Richard Hoover is the character who most exemplifies this message as he eventually recognises that his family and life cannot be defined by his ‘Refuse to Lose’ motivational programme.
At the beginning of the movie we are shown an opening sequence introducing the main characters in the movie. We are briefly introduced to each character’s situation and the goals they are trying to achieve but we soon realise that they are failing to achieve their goals. Through this opening sequence the audience are introduced to the main theme ‘winning’ and ‘losing’. When we are introduced to Richard the camera shows a low angle close up of his face. This makes him look presidential and important. We are also introduced to the theme of ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ through Richard’s dialogue, “deep inside you is a winner waiting to be released”. We don’t see the setting but we imagine Richard to be talking at a very important press conference. At this point the audience perceives Richard to be a very important and successful person. As the camera zooms out we start to see the reality of things, the setting isn’t very impressive. There are wires running here and there, an old fashioned projector projecting an image onto a white screen and lots of shadow. This makes the setting and Richard look less professional. The lights flicker on and we see the true reality of Richard’s situation, he is at a community hall and there only a few very bored people listening to him, the camera then cuts to a mid-long shot of Richard looking disappointed. This scene shows the irony between Richard’s lecture and his current situation, he is lecturing about being a winner when he himself isn’t a winner. At home Richard isn’t very close to his wife Sheryl and comes across to the audience as very annoying and infuriating. At the dinner table Richard sits higher than Frank and Dwayne, he thinks he is superior to them. The family looks crammed at the dinner table there is a sense of forced intimacy. As Richard is talking about Dwayne’s focus and determination to reach his goal of flying jets, he starts waving a chicken drumstick around. This makes Richard look silly and un-professional, this comes across as humor to the audience, as Richard somehow fails to do the right thing. He also brings up his ‘Refuse to Lose’ motivational programme and compares Dwayne’s vow of silence to his motivational programme. This really annoys his family and they tell him to stop. When Frank tells Olive about why he tried to kill himself Richard’s response lacks empathy and sensitivity, “Uncle Frank gave up on himself”. Richard doesn’t understand that you can’t reduce people to steps and compare them to his 9 steps to success programme. Richard thinks that because he came up with the 9 steps he has authority to speak about winners and losers. As an audience we find him annoying and start to dislike him. This is also shown when the family stop over at a diner for breakfast after agreeing to travel to California, so Olive can participate in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. The family looks crammed at the table in the diner; again there is a sense of forced intimacy. Olive orders ice-cream and as Frank is talking to Olive, Richard very harshly tells Frank to “shut up”. He tells Olive that ice-cream is made from cream and that cream is fattening, this irritates the family. The camera isolates Richard and as an audience we side with the rest of the family. He asks Olive if the girls in the beauty pageant are fat or skinny, Olive says they are skinny and refuses to eat her ice-cream. At this point Richard comes off to the audience as very irritating...
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