Here are three of my favorite scenes in Little Miss Sunshine, pivotal moments when so-called "losers" make winning choices:
- Dwayne, the teenaged son, after his dream of being a fighter pilot is dashed, breaks a nine-month vow of silence to scream obscenities and insults at his family. "Leave me alone! I'm not getting in that van with you LOSERS!" he shouts (my paraphrase). But as soon as his little sister Olive walks across a field to join him in his pain and silently puts her arm around him, he gets up. "Let's go," he says, helping her up the hill to where his parents, uncle, and grandfather are waiting. "Sorry. I shouldn't have said that. I was wrong."
- When the entire crowd of pageant organizers and attendees are shouting at Richard to get his daughter off the stage, he glances back and forth between them and his daughter before deciding to join Olive and throw himself into in her dance. Ironically, Olive doesn't realize in the least that her dance is sexualized or inappropriate -- she's dancing joyously, like a child, while the other contestants, despite their "cute" talent offerings, are eerily dressed and made up to resemble adult women.
- When Richard's dream of landing a book deal is dashed, his profane, porn-and-crack addicted father climbs up from the back of the van to put one hand on his son's shoulder. "I'm proud of you, Richard," he says (my paraphrase again). "You tried. And so many people don't even do that." Richard, who is obviously tense and resistant to any condolences, visibly melts as he squeezes his Dad's hand.
Last but not least, Little Miss Sunshine provides us with a brilliant metaphor for the church -- a broken-down van full of people who look like losers at first glance but who have you cheering for them wholeheartedly until the end of the story.