Little Miss Sunshine (2006), written by Michael Arndt, won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay at the 79th Academy Awards. This script has been analyzed by many, so I will keep my thoughts short and to the point.
I thought it was a really strong, tight script. It was structured and flowed well. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, but as a guy in my mid-20s (none of the characters really are relatable to someone at my stage of life), that’s probably expected.
How could you knock a script that a guy put 5 years into? Plus, it is the first script I read where there were no obvious spelling mistakes. Truly, it is a really strong script.
It wasn’t completely clear if it was a blended family but regardless, the script follows three generations of the Hoover family as they drive down to Boca Raton so the daughter can compete in a beauty pageant. It’s essentially a road trip movie that culminates in Olive’s (the young girl) dance routine at the Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Contest.
In actuality, the plot is insignificant. In other words, the end goal could have been anything, ex. going to the World Series. The movie’s real bread and butter is the analysis of various themes and inter-dynamics of a family stuck on a VW bus.
There were six leading characters:
- Olive – Goal oriented, innocent
- Grandpa – Carefree, trapped
- Richard – Goal oriented, determined
- Frank – Depressed, “normal”
- Sheryl – “normal”, family-oriented
- Dwayne – Depressed, trapped
As is clear, all the characters share common traits with at least one other character. And the conflict, entertainment, etc. comes from dialogue between two opposing or similar views. For example, Frank and Dwayne bond over their mutual depression and Grandpa and Olive connect over their goal of having fun. There’s obvious friction too, with Frank, Dwayne and Grandpa having different worldviews than Richard.
Dialogue & Pacing
The dialogue is of course captured brilliantly. There are serious scenes, lighthearted moments and everything in between.
Pacing likewise is good. It’s a road trip movie, which can become monotonous, but ultimately there’s enough variety that it kept me interested.
This is a script you will connect with if you share the same worldview as the writer. I’d peg that worldview as a mix of depression and frustration. But even if you don’t relate, the juxtaposition between the six characters in the VW van makes it so at least some of their views are relatable. For example, which young guy hasn’t at some point in their life had dreams of joining the military (Dwayne)? Have you ever caught the entrepreneurial bug (Richard)? Been depressed (Frank)? Been a kid (Olive)? Surely you will connect with something in the script.
Best Part of The Script
The interactions between Olive and Grandpa, as well as the final dance routine (the climax). Arndt put up a YouTube video where he breaks down the ending (skip to 1:09:00). Quite shocking that it sits at only 28,000 views, considering the many people interested in film and screenwriting.