Family can be a source of support, comfort, optimism, love and happiness, but family can also be a cause of depression, betrayal, hurt and pain. Family is not always determined by the having the same DNA running through one’s veins but it is the bond that people can have with one another. Family can consist of friends, co-workers, classmates, a community or a group of other people. Some family members can be the worst enemies because they have the most ammunition of secrets to bring a relative down. Being able to trust a person, depend on them, and be carefree is a person that can be valued as being a part of a family. In the movie Little Miss Sunshine, their dysfunctional family is loving, supportive, optimistic as well as motivating.
The movie is filled with dark humor about a modern middle-class family that is about to encounter financial catastrophe but in the midst of their struggles they still find the beauty in life.
In the opening of the movie Richard, the father is giving a motivational speech about winning, he states “There are two types of people in this world, winners and losers”. Richard is a protagonist motivational speaker that is obsessed with winning. He is so consumed with achieving that he ridicules his family for not being perfect throughout the film. Sheryl is the mother who is an optimist, she is always giving words of encouragement even when Richard is trying to bring his family down and she is all about honest. Frank is the brother of Sheryl whom at the beginning attempts to commit suicide due to a broken heart and losing his standing as America’s pre-eminent Proust Scholar. Dwayne is the son of Richard and Sheryl and is committed to being in the air force. He is so committed that he takes a vow of silence until he gets into the air force, but then finds out he is colored blind and breaks his silence. Olive is another protagonist character in the film, she is the daughter of Frank and Sheryl and has dreams of becoming a beauty queen. Grandpa is Olive’s beauty queen pageant coach and is a late in life convert to heroine and porn, he eventually dies from a drug overdose. Main themes within the film are irony, issues of struggling to be perfect with the trials and set backs as a middle class family as well as exposing beauty pageants for little girls in America.
Irony is a main theme in the movie because the roles each character plays contradicts who they are trying to be. Richard is all about motivating others to win and pushing his “9 steps to Success” however ironically he is unsuccessful in his motivational speeches. In the opening scenes Richard is giving his “9 Steps to Success” lecture to a class of no more than 4 or 5 students and his steps to success are denied because no one knows who he is. Olive’s character also shows irony because she is an overweight, unfashionable 7 year old that is competing in glamor beauty pageants. Grandpa is in late adulthood but is acting as though he is in the stages of early adulthood by doing drugs instead of watching out for his health to prolong his life. Dwayne is showed to be working out and lifting at the beginning of the movie like as if he is a pro-athlete but is very slender and pale. Throughout the film the irony within each character and the masks they wore changed for the better.
Issues of struggling in the film for this middle class family shows how they are on the verge of a financial catastrophe. Richard was so invested in his contract for his steps to success and depended on that source of income only to find out his contract was cancelled. The Hoover’s van breaks down multiple times and has many issues, such as the horn constantly honking. The family also did not have the money to go to California but made the trip anyway to chase Olive’s dream that would may come true. Even after the pageant financial burdens await them with the transportation of grandpa’s corpse and the costs for a funeral. With all the struggles this family endures the characters ways of thinking changed into optimistic views of life.
Little Miss Sunshine was the beauty pageant that Olive was competing in and when the family arrived they realized that the Olive did not contain the glamor and elegance of the other contestants. This film displayed the process in which the little girls had to go through to fulfil the image of a beauty pageant queen. In the middle of the film Olive orders ice cream for breakfast and Richard lectures her about her way of eating and that beauty pageant winners do not eat ice cream so that way they can look thin and win. During the pageant Olive shows her talent of dancing and the judges are offended, the crowd is disgusted and the host of the pageant attempts to get her off stage all because she does not fulfill the image of what society says a beauty pageant contestant should look like. But after Olive’s performance Richard then compliments her for doing such a great job and that her grandpa would have been proud of her. Richard realizes that his daughter is who she is and is proud to know that she tries her best in all she does and enjoys herself.
Assessing the family one can determine that they have yet to achieve homeostasis. The family system as a whole shows that they are unable to maintain a stable constant state of balance financially however they are able to achieve this with their family structure. An example of the strong structure in this family system is having dinner with everyone present at the table, even Dwayne though he holds his vow of silence. Boundaries within the family system are set by Richard and most of the time it is him against everyone else. Subsystems include the brother Frank, the children Olive and Dwayne and grandpa. Each member has a role to play where Sheryl’s role is the most important because she is matriarch of the family, she is what holds the family together with her optimism and encouragement.
There is a strong relationship between Olive and Dwayne, when Dwayne breaks down after finding out he is color blind Olive is there to comfort him same with Dwayne being there for Olive when she is getting ridiculed onstage at the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. The parents however seem to be on the brink of a divorce due to the constant arguments, if financial burdens get any tougher it may break their marriage. The family is experience negative entropy, each member is growing and developing. Frank who was at first suicidal is giving Dwayne advice about life. Richard is realizing that life is not all about winning but seeing the beauty in loving his family for who they are and what they do.
When questioning the family, concerns would be whether or not Frank is still at risk of suicide? Has Frank identified the immediate problem that is causing excessive stress? He is suffering from a broken heart and due to that he is losing everything else around him because the man before is overshadowing his family, his goals, and his future. Has Frank identified any strengths that he still has? This question is asked because he is depressed about losing his job and as well as his standing as America’s pre-eminent Proud Scholar. Frank does show some signs of depression, he has a made a previous attempt, and he has no spouse. According to the SAD PERSONS scale Frank as a client may be considered for hospitalization though he has an amazing support system with his family.(344).
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