Hollywood is all abuzz about “Little Miss Sunshine,” a deftly presented piece of porn pretending to be a “heart-warming Oscar contender.” The bubbly adjectives simply swirl about this recent release: “brilliant, deftly drawn, heartwarming, raucous, superb, human, engrossing, fun, ingenious, brilliantly hysterical, warm, moving, endearing,” and more. The truth is far less sunny. “Little Miss Sunshine” is a $10 million kiddie porn movie that displays just how rotten Hollywood has become and just how far its powerbrokers have moved from America. That it was the hit of the Sundance Festival was pre-ordained.
It’s hard to know where to begin in talking about this movie and what it tells us about the current business of making movies. The cast is, to be fair, very good, the direction competent, the scene dressing excellent. But the movie itself is tasteless and basically disgraceful, an updated version of “All in the Family,” in which evil, stupid Red America is brought up short by savvy, hip Blue America. Alan Arkin plays grandpa, an aging bum who snorts heroin (yuk, yuk) and was expelled from his nursing home because he is a dangerous, in-your-face loser who counsels others to live irresponsibly. One of his character’s two sons has just tried to kill himself because he was jilted by his gay lover (audience eyes tear up because it’s so, you know, sensitive and, you know, PC). The other son is a financially failed, unsuccessful huckster of a step program for self-improvement who is taken advantage of by Evil Big Business. The teenage grandson is apparently a lunatic who is determined to get into the Air Force Academy and who has taken a vow of silence until he is accepted (that there is a huge poster of an F-18 – a Navy airplane – on his bedroom wall clearly escaped the schmucks who produced this film). We never learn how he plans to do well in high school while refusing to speak. In one violent sequence we learn what potential US military officers are really like when this clueless, friendless loner goes berserk. Nice touch, Hollywood.
And then there is the grand daughter, Olive, a perky seven-year-old who becomes the winner of a local talent contest when the winner is disqualified for what sounds like doping (although we aren’t sure). Olive has a routine of which we remain uninformed until the final sequence. During the 800-mile cross-country drive in a rolling deathtrap of a VW minibus (so, so, 60s! you know), grandpa dies of a heroin overdose while baby-sitting Olive (Manson family values are on display everywhere in this film), so the family steals his body from the hospital, wraps him in a sheet, and stuffs him in the back of the bus. This sequence simply sparkles with the kind of wit for which Hollywood has become so justifiably famous and was getting old when it was done in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” thirty years ago. Of course, the bus is stopped by a cop on the road, but no problem. The cop is, as are all cops, you know, a leering, loathsome policeman who, upon finding a stash of porn magazines, trades some comments with dad that are so uncomfortable for the audience as to make grandpa’s death look like an episode of “Teletubbies.”
The family minibus, literally falling apart (yuk, yuk), finally wheezes into the lot of the hotel where the contest is being held. After some meaningless, time-filling nonsense (this is, after all, a Norman Lear 60 minute TV show blown-up into a movie), we get to the pageant, and it’s something to see. Twelve little girls, ages 6-13, are competing for Little Miss Sunshine. We are then assaulted to fifteen minutes of little girls, dressed and made-up like crack whores, dancing and flirting with the adult judges while the adult audience goes wild with approval. This is a truly horrifying sequence and, I believe, the intended “best part” of the movie – sexualizing little girls for adult prurience. The little girls themselves – obviously all actors in this movie – seem confused about what they are supposed to be doing and affect a sort of frozen, death-grimace of a smile in their roles. I hope this is what they were directed to do and not how they really felt during the filming. And finally. It’s Olive’s turn. Her family has a last-minute bit of doubt and tells her that she doesn’t have to perform against such stiff competition if she chooses, but she continues with her act “for grandpa” and to show her dad that “losers never try.” And then we see it. To the musical number “Super Freak” little Olive performs the number dear old grand dad taught her -- a highly-suggestive striptease and dance. Well! This simply scandalizes the rest of the pageant and there ensues a painfully dishonest commotion, to which Olive’s family responds by jumping up on the stage and joining in the pornographic jerking and bumping and grinding. Take that, you Bush voters!
And that’s it. Kiddie porn now having been accomplished, the family gets back in its minibus and sets off back home, undoubtedly satisfied in the knowledge of how they showed those mean-spirited stiffs what’s what. The movie ends abruptly as if the actors couldn’t wait to get out of this horror of a film, the credits roll, and my lady and I sat there feeling we needed a shower. This is the “surprise hit of Sundance” that is guaranteed an Oscar (look for Best Script or Best Production, the Academy’s way of rewarding a dirty little film that won’t get much public acclaim but needs to be recognized by The Filmagencia for having given the finger to Red America).
Almost every week we see on TV news of another pedophile – usually a career criminal -- who has kidnapped, raped, and murdered another little girl. It seems a safe bet that the next time one is caught and imprisoned, a favorite film for movie night will be “Little Miss Sunshine.”
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