Little Miss Sunshine


As an agoraphobe I have no idea what sunshine is like. I imagine that the experience of being exposed to it is akin to being deep-fried in yellow slime. Nor indeed have I any idea of what ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ is like. But, martyr to my own cankered fancy, I cannot help but speculate as to its content:

The difference between people in real life and people in indie films is roughly comparable to the difference between actual cuckoos and the cuckoos that live in clocks. One exists at large in the world, hammering monotonously at the same chore all day long with its demented rostrum, and is intensely annoying. The other is a kitsch doppelganger that lives in a box and makes itself conspicuous at set intervals with a kind of twee, unvarying morris dance. The second is as aggravating as the first, except that people pay for the privilege of being irritated by cuckoo clocks.

This established, I must concede that Little Miss Sunshine is the least cuckoo-clockish indie film I have ever seen. I can say with no exaggeration that it is categorically the most untwee, uncutesy and unkitsch movie in existence. It takes its cue from such big-bottomed fare as ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘The Bicycle Thieves’. Indeed, Little Miss Sunshine is a Grapes of Wrath for our times. It tells the tale of the Sunshines, a family of corn-cob-slobbering Okies as they make an arduous, hopeless odyssey across an unwelcoming American landscape. Instead of a tremulous jalopy their flight is facilitated by a minivan bestrewn with bitter, half-chewed travel sweets. Instead of seeking honest labour in the peach orchards and fig-funnels of California, their no-less noble quest is to escort the youngest member of the family, Lil’ Rosasharn, to a beauty pageant. And, unlike the Joads, whose enemies are exploitative landlords and their intellectually sub-normal goons, the Sunshine family’s equally formidable nemeses are narcissistic infants tricked out to resemble fallen Bo Peeps.

I screeched and grizzled with gut-bucking grief for the entire duration of this film. As one by one the Sunshine family perished and were buried in crude, shallow graves accompanied by illegible, nonsensical memos, the film drove us deeper and deeper into the brown silt of misery. Few viewers will ever forget the lamentable end of twinkly ol’ Grampaw Sunshine, who died halfway through a harmonica solo. His woeful toot will echo down the annals of cinematic history.

Thankfully, however, the film ends on a happy note as Lil’ Rosasharn Sunshine wins the beauty pageant and triumphs over all of her miniscule, unprepossessing rivals.


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