Little Miss Sunshine, and her mother who just stands there.

We were lucky enough to find Little Miss Sunshine on the TV last night. Finally, the programmers did something right. I love this movie. The catchphrase is, "Everybody pretend to be normal" and they weren't kidding. It's a family full of people just hanging on by a thread and heading who knows where. 

It's a great 'quest' story. The family is on a trip to take Olive, their sunny but naive daughter, to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Unfortunately no-one really wants to go, including the VW van which loses its gearbox on the way, but the family is forced to be together for the sake of Olive, and must face the many challenges as they come.

Some of the challenges are to the whole family, including the breakdown of the car, and the death of grandpa (who took a little too much dope overnight in the hotel room.) The other challenges are to the individuals. Each person faces their own death in some way. Dad's business pitch fails, the gay suicidal uncle meets his former boyfriend and is dislodged from his title of 'world's foremost Proust scholar', elective mute big brother finds out he is colour blind and loses his dream of being a fighter pilot, and of course, Grandpa actulaly does die. Olive's challenge is to compete against the beauty queens while keeping her dignity and self-belief alive.

That's everyone, right? Well, no. It occurred to me at 3 this morning in a half-form of sleep, that the mother, so beautifully played by Toni Collette, didn't have a personal challenge for herself alone. She managed and stood behind everyone else through their crises, and she faced not knowing what to do at various points, but she didn't have to look at her own mortality and the death of her own dreams like the others did.

Why not? Is it because she's a mother, and in Hollywood the mothers don't count? Is it because she's a woman and the writers didn't know what to do with her? Are her dreams just too threatening to the life of the family? I'm interested in your thoughts.

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