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Seen last night with Mum.

I saw a trailer for this when it came out, and from that managed to get the impression that a) it was a fairly light-weight cheesy feel-good movie and b) the major driving event behind the plot was a family accidentally leaving their daughter behind in a service station when on a road-trip.

Wrong on both counts! Yes, it's life-affirming and frequently very funny - but this was definitely a lot more profound and well-observed than the term 'feel-good movie' usually implies. And yes, they do leave their daughter behind in a service station - but they realise pretty quickly and pick her up again, and it's by no means the central event of the film.

Anyway, we both really enjoyed it. I was reminded quite strongly of American Beauty in terms of how the characters and their interactions are revealed, although the plot is pretty different. And I absolutely loved the yellowy, faded and quite flat palette of colours they'd used for it. I wish I had the faintest idea how they'd achieved that 'look'.

Mum, meanwhile was reminded by the scenes with the grandfather's corpse of a 'second feature' she'd seen some time in the late '60s or early '70s, which revolves around two guys trying to get a dead body from the top floor of a tall building, down the stairs, over the garden fence and away in a car. Along the way, inevitably, they meet people coming up the stairs, and have to pretend the dead guy is drunk, or quickly shove him in a cupboard and so on. Apparently, in the end, he slips out of the back of the boot of their car, and they drive on off up the road oblivious to the fact. And if anyone has any idea at all what this might have been called, do speak up!


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 1st, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
I watched this for the first time a few weeks ago and thought it was wonderful - I'm glad you did too :-)
Mar. 1st, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
There's a community on LJ dedicated to finding out the names of films for people who can only remember plot parts... er unfortunately I can't recall it but you could try a community like ljmovies or something?
Mar. 2nd, 2008 03:05 am (UTC)
The only film I can think of that sounds remotely like what your Mum saw is Weekend at Bernie's, although I don't think that's it. There's also The Trouble With Harry, a Hitchcock thing. Again, unlikely.

I loved Little Miss Sunshine. The only problem I had with it was the male focus. Along the journey, every male character had an epiphany, an emotional milestone. The mother didn't, and the little girl didn't really.... It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine that women are often presented in fiction as being selflessly generic, if you know what I mean? I'd love to see more flawed women in comedies, but writers often seem nervous of getting us to laugh at a female character.
Mar. 2nd, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
No, it's definitely not either of those. Weekend at Bernie's is indeed a full-length version of the same sort of scenario, but it came out much too late, and The Trouble With Harry also sounds too long and complex for what she's describing. Whatever it was she saw was more like an extended comedy sketch, rather than a full-length film - just something to fill up the running-time in an evening's programme, back when most cinemas ran second features alongside the main film. And the business of getting the corpse out from the top of the house and into the car was the entire plot of the feature, not part of something longer.

Your point about the male focus in Little Miss Sunshine is really interesting, and I completely see what you mean now you've mentioned it. I suppose to be fair there are plenty of similar films where the female characters do have their own complexity and their own developments - like American Beauty or (on a Toni Collette theme), Muriel's Wedding. But you're right that the balance of interest is almost always with the men.
Mar. 3rd, 2008 01:12 pm (UTC)
I see what kernowgirl means about the focus on the male characters, but I'd recouch it slightly: the mother is doing her damnedest to hold the entire family together as all the men fall apart, which is why she gets background-shunted - she's the one persistently sane/sensible/not dead figure in the film.

And as for the daughter, the entire film is about the lengths the family goes through to make her happy, and making sure she doesn't have some sort of horrible epiphany - the culmination of which being when all the other characters choose to throw their dignity to the wind and make fools of themselves rather than let her crumble under the vile judgement of the beauty pagent panel. At first, I thought it was a cheesy and disappointing ending, and then the more I thought about it, the more beautiful I realised it really was - the centre of the film is how deeply loved she is by the whole family, whatever their own worries and problems.
Mar. 5th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
Yes, I do see your point, too, that for both of these characters, the lack of an epiphany could be seen as a positive thing. But then again, why couldn't any one of the four male characters who did have epiphanies have been female? OK, so the father biologically has to be male. But the son, the brother and the grandfather could all equally well have been female, while still functioning in exactly the same way in terms of the story. The fact that they weren't could be interpreted as an indication that we are still living in a very male-focussed world, with its film-makers rarely prepared to tackle that sort of story for female characters.
Mar. 5th, 2008 09:48 pm (UTC)
You don't think that perhaps the point is the ineffectuality of a phallocentric society? The father invests all his life in a failing venture sold to him by a snake oil merchant; the brother attempts suicide after being passed up for some academic thing (it's a year since I saw it and my encyclopaedic film memory is failing in my old age, sorry); the son's aviator plans all fall apart before they can even begin; and the grandfather, meanwhile, is a junkie who has long understood and embraced the futility of ambition. Apart from the grandfather, they are all utterly obsessed with Success (particularly the father), and they are all doomed to failure at the first hurdle. The mother has far more modest ambitions, meanwhile, and succeeds admirably in the face of spectacularly overblown obstacles, and yet the father still patronisingly lectures her on what success is at every turn. Meanwhile, the daughter is blessed with a family that will shield her from the failure that the contest will impose on her for not meeting up to its requirements, while she is completely oblivious and having a great time.

This could all be contrived waffle, of course. I'm just seeing how far I can play devil's advocate. I think perhaps it is significant that Toni Colette's character is strong but unrecognised as such, while the various men are fatally flawed, and it is their flaws that are writ large onscreen.

Also, I would argue that the grandfather HAS to be male. I think the film had a definite agenda to hint at him having possibly unsavoury intentions and then refute them throughout; having done that, it highlights the alarming undercurrent of sexuality in the socially acceptable beauty pageant.
Mar. 5th, 2008 11:12 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I guess you're right about the grandfather, actually.

And I suppose what's really important about the film is that it can be interpreted in such different ways. It raises the debate, and that's usually the sign of a really worthwhile creative work.
Mar. 2nd, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC)
I love Little Miss Sunshine, its far better than I had expected it to be, I love the darkness of the humour.
Mar. 2nd, 2008 01:43 pm (UTC)
I *heart* this film. And it's one I can watch over and over.
Mar. 2nd, 2008 03:53 pm (UTC)
Yeah I felt similarly about this film, was not at all like I expected & was surprisingly sweet & thoughtful.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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