Title: Little Miss Sunshine
Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Notable Actors: Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Toni Collette, Steve Carell
Age Group: Older Teens and Up [language, discussions of suicide]
What It's About: Who says you can't be a beauty queen just because you've got big glasses, a little extra weight, and one of the world's most dysfunctional families?
Why VZG Recommends It: It's a feel-good movie in a way you wouldn't think a movie could be. The grandfather does heroin, the uncle is suicidal, the father can't sell a book, the brother hates everyone, and the mother can't keep everyone together. But Olive loves them all anyway, and it's hard not to love her back.
I went to see this on an off-hand recommendation from a professor. I laughed, and I absolutely loved the characters. The situations were just so desperately hopeless, made more so by the realistic malfunctions of each character. My favorite among them was Frank, played by Steve Carell, a Marcel Proust scholar who lost his job, love, and position as most prominent scholar to another. His outlook on everything is dry and intellectual, but in spite of everything he can still laugh at himself as he pushes a Volkswagen along with his sister's family. He's the backup reassurance, the reality after Olive opens everyone up with her innocence.
Not that all the characters don't have some flavor of awesome, though some have greater faults — or, at least, more grating ones.
In any case, it will make you laugh, and you'll walk away feeling good.