In 2007, the Academy Award winning film, Little Miss Sunshine, was released in theaters. Little Miss Sunshine is the original story of Olive Hoover and her families’ road trip to the “Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Pageant” in California. The films dramatic structure and use of specific plot points demonstrates the main character’s rise from an impressionable child yearning for the glory of a beauty pageant winner to a young girl ready to accept herself as an individual. It also transforms her father’s perspective of what it means to be a winner. Our story begins with Olive watching the end to a Beauty Pageant contest on her television. T
his character driven opening sequence exemplifies Olive’s dramatic need to become a Beauty Queen. As the scene cuts from the pageant back to Olive, she rubs her stomach displaying the fact that she does not feel comfortable with her appearance. A young child at Olive’s age should not feel like she has to be perfect and resemble a pageant winner to be beautiful. As the opening sequence continues, the film switches to the father, Richard Hoover, giving a presentation entitled “Refuse to Lose”. The title of his presentation and his perspective on winning sets the foundation for Olive’s self-dissatisfaction. As the film progresses, the mindset of the father impacts the daughter and her dream to become a beauty pageant winner.
In Act I, the scene starts with the Hoover family at the dinner table where Olive is telling her Uncle Frank about her routine her grandfather helped her choreograph for the beauty pageant. Through this scene, the audience is once again introduced to the fathers’ mentality on winning. As Uncle Frank wishes Olive good luck on her performance, her father responses immediately, “Luck is the name losers give to their own failing.” With persuasion from her father, Olive believes that the only thing that matters is winning. As the scene ends, the first major plot point arrives when Olive listens to a voice mail informing her she received a spot in the “Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Pageant.” As the plot progresses, the film arrives at the midpoint of the first half of Act II, where there is Pinch I. In this sequence, the father puts too much pressure on Olive to be perfect. Most of the scenes involving the father talking about winning are more subtle, but in this one the father goes too far. He tells Olive that she must be thin in order to be a winner and discourages her from ordering ice cream. When the family erupts with anger,
Olive is confused by what the fuss is about. The pinch unfolds when the father asks Olive, “Those women in Miss America-Are they skinny or are they fat?” This makes a lasting impression on Olive. When the waitress brings her the ice cream, she tries to give it away. This scene gives a more in-depth view of how far the father will go to force the ideas of “Refuse to Lose” on his daughter. Now, ideas portrayed by her father are starting to affect young Olive. As the families’ yellow Volkswagen Microbus rolls along, so does the story. The film arrives at the second plot point. Olive has been working hard perfecting her routine and is ready to perform in the “Little Miss Sunshine” contest. On the way to the competition, her grandfather passes away. He was a significant character, because he encouraged Olive to do her best and be happy with herself. His attitude towards competition showed Olive what it means to truly be a winner. With his death, Olive’s dramatic need changed. Now she just wants to compete and do her best for her grandfather. In the final act, the Hoover arrives at the “Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Competition.” Olive is prepared to perform. As she watches from the back,
Olive sees how different she is from the other girls. At first, her father tries to persuade Olive to give up. He believes she has no chance in winning; however, Olive is determined to try her best and compete in the competition. As the scene concludes, Olive is on stage performing seeming to make a fool out of herself with her outrageous routine. When her father sees her unsure onstage, he finally realizes that winning really is not everything. As a security guard tries to pull Olive offstage, the father jumps onto the stage with Olive. The rest of the family follows right behind him. As they all dance in front of the crowd they embarrass themselves, but have a great time doing it.
They also finally pull together and unite as a family. The father finally learns the true meaning of winning and Olive transforms into a confident girl by not letting others influence her view of herself. Throughout the film, Little Miss Sunshine uses explicit plot points and defining events to show the transformation of Olive, a misguided child who believes winning and beauty are everything, to understanding that beauty comes from within. Through Olive’s transformation as a person, her father was finally able to realize the power of being true to ones self. From the first scene until the resolution in Act III, the film produces conflicts and eventually a resolution that would change the lives of a whole family. These scenes demonstrate a profound understanding of two characters troubles, confronting their problems, and resolving them.