Monday, September 11, 2006

Ain't No Sunshine When It's Wrong

I am baffled by the generally favourable reviews, in both France and the UK, of Little Miss Sunshine, a film I saw last week. It's not a terrible film but it is notable rather for its mediocrity. I am not going to go into it in too much detail but the film is a hyperactive family road movie, that imagines itself to be a lot more transgressive than it actually is. Effectively a sitcom shot indie-movie-style (a style that has become as entrenched and as conservative as the Hollywood product it purports to counter); all the characters have a hook, the morose teenage son, the cute seven-year-old, the pushy Dad etc. One can forgive a certain schematism in a film like this but the jokes need to be particularly good. Unfortunately here they are not, what it really lacks is an extreme daftness (à la Napoleon Dynamite) or excessive bad taste, in the John Waters mode. There are a few fundamental problems with the film too: why do the family not know about their daughters' beauty pageant routine, despite their whole-hearted support for her? And though Toni Collette's mother is the breadwinner in the house, we are never told what she does for a living. In fact there is barely any reference to her job. Not an insignificant oversight.

Much better, though clearly a much different film, was Bruno Dumont's fourth film Flandres, which I saw over a week ago and I hope to come back to again in more detail when I watch it a second time.