Idol Chatter

While I almost always agree with what fellow blogger Tim Hayne has to say–and I appreciate that he seems to be a fellow enthusiast of slightly darker, indie films–I found myself disagreeing with him after watching “Little Miss Sunshine.” While I love stories about quirky, eccentric characters who go on unexpected journeys that result in personal growth, which is what happens to the dysufnuctional Hoover family as they travel to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in their VW bus, “Sunshine’s” road trip took too many exits down some morally questionable detours for me to fully enjoy this comedy.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some funny lines as well as some laugh-out-loud moments, and the premise itself is prettty clever. But what’s not so clever is having a dirty old man as a grandfather character and an angst-filled teen quote some philosopher we should all believe was profound for saying that, well, nothingness is the meaning of life. I’ve already seen it, thanks, though perhaps not quite with the level of crude enthusiasm found here.

And I realize that the movie is, on one level anyway, slamming the seedy world of kiddie beauty pageants, and I wholeheartedly support making fun of that great American subcluture. But do we actually need to watch a seven-year old girl exploited by doing a strip tease dance in order to appreciate the exploitative nature of these contests? I know I didn’t.

Perhaps the biggest question that this movie raises is a question I have been debating quite a bit lately. How much sin do storytellers need to show us to prove to us that a character is, by the end of the story, redeemed in some way? It’s a question I began reconsidering after the media began arguing about the apalling nature of the “did he or didn’t he rape his ex-wife?” storyline on the FX series “Rescue Me.” “Sunshine” is by no means as morally controversial or as edgy a show as “Rescue Me,” but I feel like the same issue applies to both. I don’t believe it is always necessary to see, hear, and feel every bit of garbage that a character goes through in order to empathize with that person’s plight or celebrate that person’s redemption. Or, put a simpler way, less can be more.

Am I casting too large a cloud of gloom over “Little Miss Sunshine”? Well, it opens in wide release this weekend, so you may just have to decide for yourself.

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