The family in Little Miss Sunshine isn’t; each member heads off after what he or she believes will give personal happiness. Dad Richard wants a career as a multi-media motivational guru. Uncle Frank wants a boyfriend to go along with his position as the world’s leading Proust scholar. Brother Dwayne wants the power of Nietzsche to lead him into an Air Force career. All mom seems to want is to keep things on track, offering salad as the communal bond. Only lost and depraved Grandpa seems to have time for little Olive, as he teaches her a dance for the upcoming Little Miss Sunshine contest in California.
Along the family’s journey from their home in New Mexico to the pageant in California, the individual dreams are destroyed. Eventually “circumstances” force the family to unite around Olive to save her from the horrors of beauty pageant exploitation. And, by focusing their efforts, for the first time, on the well-being of another, Olive, the family begins to heal. The trip through the desert may have created the possibility that these broken individuals may yet become a family.
Throughout the movie Olive proclaims her name – “Oh, live!”- in all her relationships. Like the olives in the Promised Land, this OliveÂ grows on the slipperyÂ slope of a family whose soil provides little nourishment. There is nothing physically attractive aboutÂ an olive tree; but its oil can heal the sick and anoint kings. The olive testifies to God’s grace – from the time of Noah until the days of Revelation. And even inÂ our time of Little Miss Sunshine.
Throughout the film, only Olive asks the big questions – Why would someone try to die? Where does one go whenÂ he dies? Olive seems to live the lyric of the old Sunday School song, “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam”:
Jesus wants me to be loving,
And kind to all I see;
Showing how pleasant and happy
His little one can be.
She may not win the official title of Little Miss Sunshine, but we have seemÂ Olive living the unofficial and unconscious life of Little Miss Sunbeam. Little Miss Sunshine demonstrates how God can break into a secular movie to makeÂ a point about the Kingdom of God – Not Yet here, but Already, even in a movie like Little Miss Sunshine.