Colorblind? Little Miss Sunshine is a movie about a dysfunctional (yet oddly supportive) family’s road trip from hell. This extended family consists of a mother, father, her son from a previous relationship, daughter, uncle and grandfather. This film was released August 18, 2006 and won two Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Alan Arkin) and Best Writing, Original Screenplay. Abigail Breslin was nominated for her portrayal of Olive. Little Miss Sunshine was also nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year.
The film was nominated and awarded over 40 various awards. The Hoovers are a unique group, but they put the fun into dysfunctional. Grandpa Hoover, portrayed by Alan Arkin, is a heroin addicted, porn enjoying, nursing home evictee with a colorful and obscenity laced vocabulary. He is working with his granddaughter Olive on a dance routine for a beauty pageant. Grandpa advises his step-grandson to have lots of sex with lots of girls (the young stuff is the best stuff) while he is still underage and can’t be charged as an adult.
Grandpa also tells Olive that she is beautiful when she is feeling insecure – not because of her brain or her personality, but because she is beautiful. It was oddly touching and sweet. Grandpa Hoover was dead and wrapped in a sheet, in the truck of the VW bus in the frame I am discussing. Richard Hoover, played by Greg Kinnear, is a motivational speaker touting the nine steps of success. The basis of which he repeats throughout the movie, “There are two kinds of people in the world, winners and losers, the difference is winners don’t quit. He is frantically trying to get in contact with a man who is attempting to get a book deal to spread his ideas. He swings from strangely supportive by expressing his admiration of his stepson Dwayne for setting a goal and sticking to it (more about that below) and letting his cruel streak show by telling Olive that beauty queens don’t eat ice cream. Mom, Sheryl, is trying to make everyone happy and is pro-honesty. She seems trapped in between everyone. The relationship between her and Richard is strained by financial issues, as well as Sheryl’s need to take care of everyone.
Frank is the brother of Sheryl, and he has just been released from a hospital after attempting suicide. He was jilted by a lover, lost his job and was passed over for an award that was awarded to his ex-lover’s current boyfriend. He repeatedly reminds everyone is the “foremost scholar of Proust”. Dwayne is the teenage son of Sheryl and he has taken a vow of silence until he is accepted into the Air Force Academy to fulfill his dream of being a pilot. He communicates with a pen and pad – including telling Uncle Frank – “Welcome to Hell. ” He reads Nietzsche and “hates everybody”.
Olive is the glue that holds everyone together. She was the runner up in a beauty contest while visiting her aunt and they get a call that the winner is unable to compete in the finals, and Olive and family are off to California for her to compete. Olive and Grandpa have been working on her totally inappropriate but hilarious dancing routine that she performs at the pageant. Olive loves and accepts everyone as they are her family adores her. The still that I am analyzing is of Dwayne realizing and processing the fact that he is colorblind and will not be able to be a pilot.
He has just broken his vow of silence by repeatedly screaming an obscenity while running away from the VW bus. Richard had pulled over to the side and the bus was parked on the shoulder of the road. Sheryl had already gone down to speak to him, but he had lashed out by yelling – “Divorced, Bankrupt, Suicide” while pointing at all the adults. They were running behind because Grandpa had died and they had smuggled his body out of the hospital (he was wrapped in a sheet in the trunk of the bus). Olive had to be at the pageant by 3pm and they had to leave immediately in order to make the cutoff.
Olive is heading down the hill to talk to Dwayne in this scene. Below are the fifteen elements of a Mise en scene: Dominant: Dwayne is dominant. Even though Olive is in the center and the red of her shirt is vibrant, Dwayne is dominant because he is clear and closer up. He is dejection personified. His position in the lower part of the frame shows his feelings of being powerless. Lighting Key: This scene is natural lighting. Very bright sun and the only shadow is Dwayne’s. Shot and camera proxemics: The shot of Dwayne is a medium shot from a personal proxemic.
One feels as if they can reach out and pat Dwayne on the back or pull him in for the hug he so desperately needs but is resisting. Olive and the others are in a long shot and public distance. Olive, however, is coming towards Dwayne and is about to enter Dwayne’s intimate range to give him the necessary hug. Sometimes saying nothing is the right thing to say. Olive, the only person in the group that had anything to lose by the delay, offers only her comfort and understanding to her devastated big brother. Color Values: The brown dirt/hay combination of the ground contrasted nicely with the blue sky with wisps of white clouds.
The yellow of the VW bus pulls ones eye to it. The red in Olive’s shirt stands out in the barren field. Dwayne’s jet black hair is outlined by wisps of clouds and set off more than just the blue sky to the right of the bus. Lens/filter/stock: Wide angle lens with no apparent filter but the foreground (Dwayne) is in sharper focus. Standard slow stock film. Subsidiary contrasts: One’s eye is drawn towards the yellow bus and the red of Olive’s shirt. Density: The space is stark and barren, even the grass is dead – like Dwayne’s dream of flying.
They appear to be isolated in a large open area when actually they are on the side of a verily busy multi-lane highway. When the shot widens as the family leaves, one sees homes close by and realizes this space is different than the surrounding area. The hill makes the other family members appear to be more distant than they are and the sparse, dry, dead and dying landscape is appropriate for Dwayne’s situation. Composition: Dwayne is off by himself in the lower corner, highlighting his sense of powerlessness, and the other family members are on a hill overlooking him.
They appear further away than they actually are. There are definitely two distinct groups – with Olive bridging the distance between the two. Olive is the one person in the family that everyone is connected with. Form: Wide open space. The lot on which this takes place is much smaller than it appears and not nearly as isolated as it seems. Dwayne’s placement closer to the camera indicates he is feeling more trapped in the wide open space. Since Dwayne is so obviously distressed and nothing in the frame appears to be the reason, one knows that something outside the frame is the cause.
Framing: The framing on Dwayne is tighter than on the others. The other family members are framed much more loosely. Olive is in between the two groups and is the only subject in motion. Depth: There are two planes – Dwayne in the forefront and the parents and uncle in the background. Olive is the connection between the two groups and she is going to get Dwayne and bring him back into the family. Character Placement: Dwayne is in a position of powerlessness in the bottom corner of the frame.
Richard, Sheryl and Frank are above Dwayne, but are not in a position of dominance. Although all three are standing closely together, they are not connected to each other at all. Staging positions: None of the characters are looking at the camera and don’t seem aware of its presence. Character proxemics: Dwayne is distant from everyone, but Olive is heading towards him. Sheryl is turned away from both Richard and Frank and is looking off into the distance. Richard is looking in the opposite direction and away from both Sheryl and Frank.
Frank is placed in between the two and appears to be uncomfortable, although he appears to be watching Olive, something neither of her parents is doing. Dwayne desperately wants to be different from his family and be away from them. He has distanced himself from them physically, as he hoped to do with flying. Little Miss Sunshine is a critically acclaimed film that touched a cord in a lot of people. The situations were absurd, my personal favorite was when the family had to return to get Olive, who was left behind, and they couldn’t slow down because of the clutch problem with the bus.
Olive is running next to the bus as it speeds through a gas station parking lot. For the majority of the movie, one is thinking how glad they are that the Hoover’s aren’t their family, however, by the end of the movie one is hoping their family is like the Hoovers. Works Cited Giannetti, Louis. Understanding Movies Eleventh Edition. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. Little Miss Sunshine. Dir. Jonathon Dayton, Valerie Faris. Perf. Greg Kinnear, Steve Carrell and Toni Collette. DVD. 20th Century Fox, 2006.
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