Sunday, August 13, 2006

Scoop on Little Miss Sunshine

I snagged a double feature of a these two possibly overlooked flicks. One I LOVED and one I liked. First, the love..

"Little Miss Sunshine" (dirs. Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, 2006, 101 mins.) played to a good bit of hype at Sundance, was on the cover of 'Entertainment Weekly' and is just doing ok box office. It deserves MORE! I LOVED this! No, it is not flawless. There are moments of forced zaniness that only seems so out of place because the performances, actually the relationships within the family, are so well done. The core cast of six (Alan Arkin, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear) are at least, REALLY GOOD (Kinnear), and at best, BRILLIANT (Collette, Carell and Arkin). The kids (Dano and Breslin) keep up their end of the work also, particularly Dano's tormented 15 year old. Kinnear, as the father, has a harder time of it, perhaps because it is his character that is responsible for the aforementioned 'forced zaniness'. Out of this odd family, it is he who eventually comes out being the oddest, in my view anyway. Carell is nearly unrecognizable as the suicidal brother-in-law. His performance is still, quiet and much deeper than anything he has given to my knowledge. Collette is... well, Toni Collette! Of course she's great! And out of the blue, Alan Arkin portrays one of the filthiest old men in some memory. He was fantastic. Breslin, who plays the little girl around which the plot revolves, holds her own without crossing the line into 'cute'. (I HATE 'cute'.)

I just wish the script hadn't forced a couple of bits and there is one unbelievable coincidental moment involving Carell's character, which is to lead us to one of the 'zany' moments that was really unnecessary in the first place. The film plays like an indie-family-comedy, however it's tendency towards farce reveals what might be a hopeful commercial aesthetic that was unnecessary. In other words, I don't know if the authors/directors had enough faith in the heart of the story, without adding the farcical elements to ensure laughs. The best laughs came from some of the more painful moments, especially from Dano's silent 15 year old.

I could easily watch this over and over for the performances alone, though! The ensemble's timing, interactions and dialogue are priceless, disciplined and almost short of phenomenal. I would love to find out how the directors rehearsed the group!

One already knows that Woody Allen abhors that much work on his projects, and I think it shows in:

"Scoop" (dir. Woody Allen, 2006, 96 mins. - of course!) Here, Woody seems to want to reinvent or concoct an homage to classic, 40's Alfred Hitchcock. Hugh Jackman takes the Cary Grant role and Scarlett Johansson is the blonde in peril, though not as icy as Hitchcock's. Woody's spin on this is the insertion of... HIMSELF. Ok. I really LIKE Woody Allen movies. I do NOT like Woody Allen IN his movies. He annoys the hell out of me. The stuttering and stammering and forced communicative confusion just bugs me. And in the case of "Scoop" that is too bad, as Jackman and Johansson are never really allowed to take over the film without Allen interrupting it, either physically or with his gimmicks. In this, it is the ghost of a journalist (Ian McShane) who is feeding clues to Johansson and Allen in tracking a murderer, assumably Jackman. The story itself is fairly small, in that it centers on this quartet, though there are numerous 'cameos' by some British stage legends. Yet, within the quartet, the only relationship allowed to bloom is between Allen and Johansson, and that seems to rest mostly on Johansson's shoulders as she is expressing the frustration I felt in watching it: will Allen NOT SHUT UP?! In fact, the most suspense I had in the film was whether Allen was going to seduce Johansson! Thankfully, that never happened. Instead, we were allowed some nifty beefcake shots of Jackman, whose character is subjugated to being a mere charming cipher for the majority of the film.

However, watching Allen's film technique is always diverting and pleasant enough. I may not remember seeing this in a month, but I don't feel it was a waste of time, as it was academically satisfying enough to watch him dabble in Hitchcockian milieu.

1 comment:

Maxxxxx said...

re "Little Miss Sunshine": "I love you too!"
re "Scoop": "Shut up!"