Unless you're willing to put up with foul language and some foul advice, don't see the R-rated Little Miss Sunshine in the theater, but keep it in mind to watch eventually on television or in some other mercifully expurgated version.
The main characters fill their lives with illusions and delusions, starting with the hope of a chubby little girl that she will win a pre-pubescent beauty contest. Her dad has gone bankrupt trying to market a "Nine Step" success formula, her teenage brother idolizes Nietzsche and hasn't said a word for nine months, her grandpa snorts heroin and spews obscenities, her mom is close to a nervous breakdown, and her uncle is a gay professor who has just tried to kill himself.
Ironically, the two characters with worldviews most opposed to family values break out of their moroseness only when they become involved with a family project. The brother who wears a "Jesus was wrong" T-shirt shows love when he is loved rather than yelled at. The little girl says to her gay uncle, "That's silly," when he says he loved a boy-and it does seem silly, compared to the complicated comforts of family. The father who scorns "losers" regains his humanity only when he loses. The mother who tries to smooth over arguments to keep the family together succeeds in her efforts only when everything falls apart.
But that all makes Little Miss Sunshine sound more serious than it is. "Happy families are all alike," Tolstoy wrote, "every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"-and this way is wacky. The theater audience laughed frequently, and uproariously in one memorable scene near the end. Too bad the laughter didn't drown out parts of the sound track.