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.
The film Little Miss Sunshine, Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Farris, explores the lives of a regular American family and how they change their lives in front of us in the ‘Combie’ van on the road to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. The film examines the issues of winning and losing, and what it means to be a winner, throughout many sequences in the film as well as exploring the value of family.
The directors and the cinematic team use an extreme range of camera techniques, costuming, and sound techniques to reshape our understanding of winning and losing in the world we live in today. Firstly the directors and their team use a variety of different camera techniques to shape our view on the characters, and ultimately change our view in the world. In the opening sequence each character is introduced using different camera shots. For example Olive’s father is first projected to the audience as a success.
There is a sequence of close ups and mid ranged shots which show Richard confidently speaking in a spotlight at the front of the room. However the cinematic team then use a cut to a point of view shot of what Richard sees when he has finished talking, which allows us to then see how much of a failure he really is, as there is only five, half asleep, bored people in the room and only one person applauds Richards work. This first sequence allows us to see that Richard acts and feels like a winner to himself, but when he is seen with the rest of the world he is failure and a loser.
The directors have used this sequence to shape our understanding of winning and losing as it employs the idea that winning and losing is based on comparing yourself to the rest of the world, instead of being on how you feel and view yourself. Secondly the costuming used in the film has a big effect on shaping our view on the characters and their position in the movie world. The characters in the Hoover family are costumed as a very average family. Throughout the movie the Hoover family is suggested to be positioned at the lower end of the economic wealth scale.
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However this is most obvious when Olive finally reaches the Little Miss Sunshine competition. When all the competitors are introduced on stage we see Olive is far out of place just through her basic average costuming, compared to the other girls who are dressed like little Barbie dolls, with glittery clothes and excessive make up. Even though Olive is out of place and obviously doesn’t belong in the competition, she still reflects Grandpa’s view on classifying winners and losers which was introduced before he died. Grandpa believes that a real loser is someone who is so afraid of not winning they don’t even try.
Through the costuming and Olives actions the directors implant that view of winning and losing into the audience, which then reflects on our world today, as we need to show more support, not for the winners of a competition, but the courage people have developed to enter a competition. The Final key technique which is employed by the cinematic team of Little Miss Sunshine is the use of sound. Throughout the film there is an evident mixture of diegetic and non-diegetic sounds. In the scene were Frank and Dwayne are out on the pier, starts with a non-diegetic voice over from the Little Miss Sunshine pageant saying ‘America, it’s so beautiful’.
These words introduce the scene as the diegetic sounds of nature at the beach take over and remind us of nature’s healing presence as we then see the first real bonding between Frank and Dwayne. The directors have chosen to use these sound techniques to help the audience feel the repairing sense of nature as they start to learnt the value of family with frank and Dwayne. The value of family which is also reflected on our world is that no matter how much we try and push them away they will always be there when we need, and that’s the true value of family shown throughout the film.
The film Little Miss Sunshine, Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Farris, explores the lives of a regular American family to portray key values which should be inherited by our society. The film analyses the concepts of winning and losing, and what it means to be a winner, throughout many sequences in the film as well as exploring the value of family. The director and the cinematic team use an extreme range of camera techniques, costuming, and sound techniques to help the storyline shape our understanding of winning and losing in the world we live in today. Adrian Pace, Year 11 Word Count- 795