Saturday, August 18, 2007
I’m ashamed to admit that these thoughts were prompted by a hard-to-sit-through film called “Little Miss Sunshine.” It’s one of those frustration stories where everything goes wrong for a dysfunctional family but they all pull together at the end. Usually I hate films like that.
The reason I'm writing about this story is that it brings up a point worth discussing, and that is the need everybody has for profundity in their lives and a kid’s ability to deliver it.
If you have a kid then you know how amazingly comforting a kid can be. When you're feeling low a little hand on your shoulder or a kid’s head on your arm is amazingly restorative. Why that is I don’t know. It can’t help you to get a job or pay your taxes but it does recharge the batteries in a way that booze or caffeine can’t.
The film is about a family who are bored and irritated by each other and who all are harboring secret fantasies about taking off on their own without even a good-bye. One of the only things they all have in common is that they’re all quietly moved in some way by the earnestness and innocence of the youngest kid. The girl isn’t Shirley Temple. She’s plain and awkward and doesn’t have witty lines. She’s just good-hearted and sincere.
If you only saw a few of her scenes you wouldn’t think the kid had much influence on the family at all...that’s why you have to persevere to the end. If you see the entire film you realize that she exerted a subtle but stabilizing influence on the family all along.
Everybody in the family wanted to leave and start fresh somewhere else, but the audience knows what the family doesn’t, viz, that they’d probably do even worse on their own. These are luckless people who are doomed to experience tough times and disappointment. That happens to some people. What they don't realize is that life could get even worse. They don't know it but the only chance they have for even a small amount of happiness is to dig in and be loyal to each other.
I said before that I had a theory about the need for profundity, and here it is. The awe you feel standing on a hill or a mountain, or watching waves break on a beach is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for your mental health. You need it. Humans crave profundity, and that’s what your own kid has to offer in abundance.
Having a kid of your own fills you with awe several times a day. If you're adventurous, and especially if you're an artist, then you need that awe to recharge the batteries. For me that's the message in this otherwise irritating film.
Posted by Eddie Fitzgerald at 12:00 PM