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‘Little Miss Sunshine’: The Movie That Changed My Perspective On Life

I don’t recall a time when I felt particularly comfortable with myself. As a preteen, these feelings of uneasiness were subtle; it meant I might spend an hour or two reliving embarrassing moments, wondering why in the world I said that or why I acted that way. But, as I transitioned into high school, this mindless habit of overthinking manifested into stress. At the tender age of 16, I had already declared myself a failure; I hadn’t published a New York Times bestseller or become a Pulitzer Prize recipient, so what good could I possibly do?

Nevertheless, the idea of succeeding in life was so important to me that I took every opportunity to present myself as a “winner.” I took part in clubs I couldn’t care less about, read painfully slow books and even began memorizing the dictionary to seem intellectual.

I felt lost, confused, and more than anything, angry with myself and my inability to become worthy. It was during one of these midnight self-loathing episodes that I discovered the movie “Little Miss Sunshine,” the only fully downloaded film on my brothers’ half-functioning laptop. After one hour and forty-two minutes of crying and laughing, I was able to feel a sense of peace that I desperately needed. 

This quirky movie, more than anything, is an authentic commentary about life and its absurdities. Little Miss Sunshine questions our society’s obsession with hustle culture and toxic winner mentalities. A generation of people so disconnected from life that their self-worth is determined by the number of trophies in their cabinet and cars in their garage. Little Miss Sunshine‘s message differs from the stereotypical self-help motto, teaching you the value of just existing and being yourself. 

Each one of the five characters in the movie is going through a unique journey. The three characters I particularly resonated with were Olive, Dwayne and Erwin.

Olive, the main character, is infatuated with pageant titles and possesses well-intended ambition, striving to be beautiful. We see this innocent girl slowly harbour feelings of insecurity when she is exposed to this so-called “winner mindset.” Olive’s father makes her believe that she has to lose weight to win the title of Little Miss Sunshine. The awful advice her father gives her is later corrected by her grandfather Edwin who tells her, “A real loser is someone so afraid of not winning he doesn’t even try.” This conversation between Edwin and Olive was notably one of the most inspiring moments in the film and emphasized the importance of self-confidence and persistence. A fruitful life comes with a sense of confidence and self-worth that remains untainted by people’s relentless judgment. This gives Olive the ability to stay true to herself and pursue her goals without fear.

The character of Dwayne, Olive’s brother, fixates on his goal of being a pilot and distances himself from all other aspects of his life. He equates his happiness to becoming a pilot. Although this may sound admirable, we later realize how unhealthy this mentality is. Unconsciously, many of us believe fulfilling our self-imposed goals is the only way to derive happiness, but this is simply not true. Working towards your goals doesn’t mean you have to stop living life. You have one life, and evaluating its worth based on your so-called “success” is a great way to become miserable. Dwayne’s character evolves to understand the absurdity of his mindset towards the end. He states,” You do what you love, and fuck the rest, ” capturing the simplicity of living a fruitful life in one sentence. 

Erwin, Olive’s grandfather, is my favourite movie character thus far! Don’t get me wrong, Erwin has plenty of his struggles; after all, he is an unapologetic drug addict, but he remains authentic. His philosophy on life is to be accepting of oneself. Erwin argues we should chase our goals, not fear the possibility of losing. His carefree attitude doesn’t let the opinions of others influence him, making him a  charming, strangely positive character that I deeply admire. At the end of the movie, we see the family adopt Erwin’s philosophy, emphasizing the character’s importance. 

The story also details the character arch of Sheryl, Olives mother and the incredible amount of stress she copes with, keeping this dysfunctional family together. Richard, Olive’s father, harbours the “be a winner” mindset, the irony being that he hasn’t been successful and cannot sell his self-help program. The last member, Frank, is the depressed uncle who is deeply unhappy and has reached rock bottom. This group makes an odd family that starts off being distant and eventually gets closer and more functional.

We see each character’s battle to acquire inner strength during hard times. Through their journey of self-realization, we are reminded that it’s okay to be weak and possess flaws, despite the standard of perfection; we are all flawed individuals! We are so busy beating ourselves down that we don’t even begin to enjoy the life we have. This movie helps you understand the importance of living; to live. Watching Little Miss Sunshine made me appreciate myself and the strength I hold. This beautiful film will inspire you to harness your inner Erwin and live a more purposeful yet carefree life. 

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Aditi Roy

Ryerson '25

I am a student of Indian origin who studied in an international school in China for the past seven years. I am fluent in English, Hindi with reasonable proficiency in conversational Mandarin. I have lived in Bangladesh, China, and three states within India, making me a self-professed xenophile. I thoroughly enjoy writing, debating, reading, watching documentaries, and learning about different cultures. My skill set and interests led me to pursue journalism
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