An important idea in the film “Little Miss Sunshine” directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris is the idea that being a winner is more about perseverance and having fun than coming first place and always succeeding. A key character in the film is Richard Hoover, who portrays the development of this idea through his dialogue, costume and camera angles. Initially as defined by Richard, the world is split into only two types of people, “winners and losers”. Richard’s opening shot shows a middle-aged man orating to an audience, with a large projector behind him showing ‘the 9 steps’.
The low angle establishing shots make him look like a man of importance, but ironically, once his speech has ended we realize he is speaking not to a large crowd of people, but a near empty classroom, with only 10 people. While there is a slight feeling of pity it also brings a note of humor to the speech as Richard who was portrayed as the ‘winner’ of the scene is now revealed to be more of a loser. The opening line of the film is “There are two types of people in this world, winners and losers” indicating to the viewer that the idea of what makes someone a winner will be dominant throughout the film.
The statement is also used as a voice-over for the films first scene, where Olive is practicing winning a beauty pageant. Through this the audience quickly connects that Richard’s view of success has greatly influenced his daughter’s, as she practices her ‘winning’ face. The opening scene has been carefully chosen by the Dayton and Faris as a way to communicate to the audience that Richard’s perspective on winners will be a significant theme throughout the film. Richards’s obsession with winning and how he pushes this onto others is again witnessed as he manipulates Olive into not eating ice cream.
When the slightly chubby Olive chooses Waffles and ice cream for breakfast, Richard implies that fatty foods and beauty pageants cannot co-exist. His careful choice of words “Have you ever seen a fat beauty pageant winner? ” show him using Olive’s ambitions to dictate her behavior. He knows she cares deeply about this, and takes advantage of it. The Hoovers reaction to Richard is subtle but vital suggesting to the viewer that when people reach this level of obsession with victory it is no longer appropriate. As in this scene, Richard is shown in a close up of his face.
However, when Dwayne, Grandpa and Frank try to get Olive to eat ice cream, they are shown with a mid-shot, displaying their cohesion when trying to cheer up Olive. This group shot further enforces Richard’s separation from the group, illustrating how the family is starting to realize that Richard’s attitude is no longer acceptable. The next important scene is were the audience finally sees Richard at his lowest point, and how he has invested so much of his life into the 9 steps that he cant bear to move on. When Richard is confronted with Sheryl screaming “Fuck the 9 steps Richard…I never want to hear the nine steps again!
” he realizes that the foundation of his life might all be crap. Richard urgently hunts down Stan, his ex-business partner, but is met with further rejection. Richard is unable to accept that Stan has moved on, replying, “You mean give up? One set back, you’re ready to quit”. This scene is important for displaying the theme of what makes someone a winner because it fully encompasses the fact that Richard has become so consumed with compartmentalizing the world into winners and loser, he can no longer see the difference between giving up and just moving on.
Costume was also used in this scene to fully emphasize the contrast between Stan Grossman (the winner) who wore an expensive suit, and Richard (the loser), who has on trainers, kaki pants and a cheap polo shirt. When Richard’s father dies, we see an important shift towards the idea of participation relating to winners. The directors have chosen this moment for this idea of what makes a winner to take a significant shift as the audience can see that the grief of losing his father causes Richard change his view on success as he learns to appreciate family.
Choosing between abiding by the law (remaining with the body at the hospital) or supporting his daughter, makes him realize that coming first doesn’t always make you a winner. “If there’s one thing my father would have wanted it’s to see Olive perform in the LMS pageant. ” This dialogue shows how Richard has developed, realizing that winning is more about determination and taking part, than first place. Winners are now seen as people that “don’t give up. ” He sees that it wasn’t about Olive coming first for Grandpa, it was about her taking part.
Finally the family makes it to the pageant but things start to take turn for the worse when Richard sees the rest of the competition. His expression goes from one of pride and excitement to a look of surprise and worry with and his mouth agape as it gradually dawns on him that the whole point of the trip (winning the Pageant) is no longer a reality as the other contestants are obviously much more experienced and competitive. Richard then rushes into the changing rooms to hurriedly tell Sheryl “I don’t want her to go on”.
This shows that he still believes that it is better to avoid being a loser by not participating than to try and have fun with the risk of not winning. Although the audience can tell by Richards ashamed face, and avoidance of eye contact with Sheryl that he is somewhat embarrassed about having this feeling. This attitude is directly contrasted to the advice that Grandpa gave to Olive “A real loser is someone so afraid of losing that they don’t try at all”. The final scene where we finally see the idea that winning is more about perseverance and having fun than coming first is when Olive performs her dance routine.
In this scene Richard finally understands what being a winner is really all about and instead of telling Olive to stop dancing he instead takes part jumping on stage and validating Olives choice to take part by copying her movements, regardless of if they are going to win. This is when he realizes that participating because you enjoy it is also a lot more fun, smiling and laughing as his family takes the stage, skipping in circles and whooping. This final scene fully conveys to the audience the joy and fulfillment you can gain if you leave your inhibitions behind and have fun by following your passions
In conclusion an important Idea in Little Miss Sunshine was displayed through the use of Richard, a main character, coupled with various cinematic techniques such as dialogue, camera angles and costume. This helped to show how initially in the Hoover household a winner was someone who always came first and put their goals before everything else, even family. But gradually as the film progressed they came to realize that striving for first place is an unfulfilling goal but being a true winner is someone who has the perseverance to take part and have fun, regardless of how what others say.
Identity Crisis in Little Miss Sunshine Essay
1065 WordsFeb 5th, 20135 Pages
In the film Little Miss Sunshine many characters have difficulty finding their true identity. Olive, a 7 year old girl wants to win the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant and is unsure of her true identity because of this. Richard, her father, is an unsuccessful motivational speaker and businessman and this effects his perception of himself. Another character, Dwayne, loses his sense of identity when he realises he is colour blind. The uncle in the film, Frank has been suicidal due to losing his love and is not happy anymore.
Olive is the youngest of the Hoover family, her aspiration to become Little Miss Sunshine’s beauty pageant winner takes her family on the journey. Olives faces many challenges on her way to compete in the pageant…show more content…
But during this film Richard finds seeking his true identity difficult as he tries to publish his own motivational book which he is unsuccessful in doing, this causes Richard to doubt if he is in fact fit to be a motivational speaker on becoming successful if he himself is unable to do so.
Dwayne, the brother to Olive, is seeking a career in the Air force; he wishes to become a pilot when he is 18. With this goal in mind he takes inspiration from Friedrich Nietzsche who once said “One no longer loves one’s insight enough once one communicates it.” Dwayne chooses to silence himself in order to commit and focus towards his goal. He is so determined to achieve his goal, and has been silent for over 9 months that when he discovers he is colour blind, from a free eye test Olive took from the hospital, it takes its toll on his emotions and state of wellbeing. He becomes so frustrated and angry that he screams “FUUUUCK!” at the top of his lungs; it is because of this disability that he is faced with a hurdle he wasn’t expecting to run into. He loses his sense of identity as he knows he can no longer become a pilot if he is colour blind. Despite ‘hating’ his family and realizing he is colour blind he puts it behind him so not only can Olive can still get to the pageant but he also puts life into