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Beneath the Radar: Little Miss Sunshine

With a staggering 113 features in this year's EIFF, it's sometimes easy to miss out on something a bit special. To ensure that you don't miss a thing, we'll keep you informed of great films which have...

With a staggering 113 features in this year's EIFF, it's sometimes easy to miss out on something a bit special. To ensure that you don't miss a thing, we'll keep you informed of great films which have stealthily sneaked beneath the radar. Kicking things off is the debut feature of husband-and-wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine, which gets a Gala UK Premiere at the EIFF.

This black comedy takes a skewed view of the American Dream, following a highly dysfunctional family as they take their seven-year-old daughter on a cross-country road trip to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Allied to first-time screenwriter Michael Arndt’s savvy script, which deals deftly with the soulless culture of children’s beauty contests, this has perhaps the most impressive ensemble cast of any US production this year.

Greg Kinnear is outstanding as the motivational-speaker and patriarch of the clan, his ‘refuse to lose’ mantra fuelling his dumpy daughter’s ambition. Toni Collette and Steve Carrell turn in equally impressive performances as the fraught mother and suicidal scholarly uncle. Special praise must go to Alan Arkin, who revels in his role as the belligerent heroin-snorting granddad, one of the more idiosyncratic roles of even his varied career.

The quirky character interactions are played off flawlessly, managing to be funny and touching without appearing forced or harshly judgemental. It lends the film a humanity, which helps bind both the family and the comedy. It’s easy to see why this was such a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, sparking a bidding war that saw Fox Searchlight snatch up rights for a reported $10 million. It’s set to be worth every penny.

Little Miss Sunshine is showing on the 20 and 21 August. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris will be participating in a Retrospective of their work on 20 August.

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