The film Little Miss Sunshine is a drama comedy directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, and was released in 2006. It won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. The film is notable for its comedic take on serious topics such as drug use, attempted suicide, and death. The plot revolves around the Hoover family as they embark on a road trip to California for the daughter to compete in a beauty pageant.
The Hoovers are a dysfunctional family consisting of Richard and Sheryl, their children Dwayne and Olive, the grandfather Edwin, and Uncle Frank. Each member of the family has his or her own problems that create conflict in the film. Richard is a motivational speaker obsessed with success and won’t stand for his family being failures, and thus pushes them to be the best that they can be. Dwayne has taken a vow of silence until he achieves his goal of being a test pilot. Edwin is addicted to heroin. Frank is a gay man who has recently attempted suicide. Olive wants to be a beauty queen. Sheryl is overworked trying to keep the family together.
On the road trip, the family encounters many struggles such as problems with their van, Olive’s body image issues, Dwayne discovering that he is color blind and thus unable to be a pilot, Richard not getting a job opportunity, Frank running into an ex-lover, and the drug overdose and subsequent death of Edwin. Their van breaks down numerous times and has to be pushed to get it to move; this causes the family a great deal of stress. Olive begins to be self-conscious of her body when her father criticizes how much ice cream she eats, the rest of the family try to cheer her up by eating ice cream too. At a gas station, Frank sees his ex-boyfriend with a new man and is reminded of why he attempted suicide. Richard is told by a business partner that his motivational program didn’t get picked up by a company, which causes him to feel like a failure. Edwin dies in his sleep due to a drug overdose with Olive being the one to find him. Dwayne breaks his vow of silence when his dream of being a pilot is crushed; he speaks for the first time in the film by screaming and yelling about how much he hates the family. This scene marks a turning point in Little Miss Sunshine because after Dwayne settles down, they talk about their problems with each other and become closer.
Though the issues of death, drug use, depression, and suicide are serious and not to be taken lightly, Little Miss Sunshine adds a level of comedy and humor that is very juxtapose to the events taking place. This adds to the uniqueness and entertaining aspects of the film.