Wednesday, October 11, 2006

OK, I saw Little Miss Sunshine again...

...and the love has faded a LITTLE bit.

As with Devil Wears Prada, the second viewing revealed more of the gears turning. The "wow, this is so fun" factor could no longer hide the slight contrivances, and the film's first half or so did not hold up so well. You see how a few things were forcibly stitched together... and the whole thing just seemed less impressive... which was annoying. Cause I really LOVED it that first time.

But that said... there is still greatness within. I still give huge props to the amazing cast. Ensemble acting just does not get better than this. These are tricky characters to inhabit and make work, and not only did all six actors do that, but they also managed to form a cohesive unit and be believable as a family. GREAT work by all.

The standouts for me this time were Kinnear, Carrell, and Dano. I was REALLY impressed with Dano. Seeing him go from L.I.E. to this was kind of amazing. Maybe I just have a crush on him? I dunno. But I was actually bizarrely attracted to Dwayne. Jailbait indeed.

Arkin, though great and loveable as the uninhibited grandpa, did not seem to have as challenging a role as the other men. Grandpa was kind of one-note. Collette worked magic again in being able to appear perfectly ordinary (it's so much harder than it looks), and how can you not love Abby Breslin? But as I said, I was actually more impressed with the men this time out.

I also really appreciated the music this second time. There's not much of it, but what there is of it is just perfect. That one nagging central theme is just genius. In the opening credits, it seems to signify a kind of resignment in all the characters to their dreary mediocrity, even as they all strive for more (or, in some cases, strive to end it all). The drive to succeed just eats away at them, and the music really captures that. It's almost hauntingly sad. But then, as circumstances change, that same theme becomes a kind of anthem. The sadness and resignment is still there, but suddenly the characters are proud of it. It's a different kind of sad. It's a tricky tone to set, but it works, largely because of the music.

If there was any major change in the viewing experience this time, it was that the film took longer to really take flight. I got more bogged down by the contrivances, especially in the first half, once the surprise factor was gone. But despite the creaky foundations, this film still has moments of transcendence. I cried when Dwayne had his breakdown and screamed at his family, only to be mollified by his sister's wordless plea. I felt all warm and fuzzy when Duane and Frank exchanged thoughts about how our years of suffering are our most important. And the beauty pageant scene. That song... those dance moves... sheer brilliance.

All-in-all, still a wonderful viewing experience, if a bit tempered this second time.

Verdict: B/B+ (OK, I'm being wishy-washy... shutup)


Blogger Giancarlo said...

3:55 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

Grr. Adam, you got my hopes up for a moment there - I was anticipating a major grade drop. A "B+" still seems ridiculously high for such a disjointed, self-loving film. The pageant is just the worst of many idiotic turns of the screenplay (the cast is doing all the work here.) But hey, I'm not going to give you grief if the love is genuine. I'm just happy that you are aware of its flaws...

6:22 PM  
Blogger adam k. said...

My heart wouldn't let me go lower than a B+, but my brain wouldn't let me go higher.

I don't see what was so idiotic about the beauty pageant scene. I found it pretty realistic, actually. And the momentum the film had built up by that time let it get away with any slight flourishes. I guess this kind of thing just appeals to my particular sense of humor, which is why I love it more than some.

I do admit that it sits on "creaky foundations" as I said, but I still enjoyed myself a LOT at this movie. You say the actors were doing all the work, and I agree, but as long as the work was getting done, it doesn't matter who did it.

I do admit that it's only award-worthy aspect is probably the acting. But right now, I'd give it best ensemble of the year, hands down.

9:09 PM  
Blogger adam k. said...

OK, maybe a B+ is a tad high. I hate it when movies are not as good as I originally think they are.

9:19 PM  

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