"A real loser is someone who's so afraid of not winning he doesn't even try."
Dark, dysfunctional and wildly hilarious family comedy about a Road Trip, directed by husband-and-wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.Seven-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin) wants to participate in the titular beauty pageant located all the way in California. So her parents, brother, uncle and grandfather all drive her there in the only transportation they have: a broken down bus that's already coming apart. All sorts of misadventures and complications occur along the way, involving Nietzsche, Proust, a stripper routine and a dead body.Richard (Greg Kinnear), the father, is an aspiring but failing motivational speaker who has plunged all his time and money into his Nine Steps program. His wife Sheryl (Toni Collette) is a homemaker and mother of Olive and Dwayne (Paul Dano). Dwayne, Sheryl's son from a previous relationship, is a brooding teenager with an obsession with Nietzsche, who's taken a vow of silence until he achieves his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot. Olive is a precocious little girl with a close relationship to her grandfather. Grandpa (Alan Arkin) is a dirty, debauched old man with a sharp sense of humor and irony. Rounding out the clan is Sheryl's brother, Frank (Steve Carell), a bitterly sarcastic scholar who just tried to commit suicide over losing his job and the man he loves.It's a touching and sweet film, with a very sinister edge, and became a huge hit with artsy critics and casual film fans alike.Not to be confused with a certain yellow character from the Mr. Men series.
The Alleged Car: Their VW bus. First, the clutch breaks so the car needs to be push started every time, then the horn breaks and it beeps constantly, and finally, the sliding door falls out.
Atomic F-Bomb : Dwayne wants to fly in the Air Force, and has sworn not to talk until he does. He does very well with his vow, until he finds out he's colorblind, and won't be allowed to fly. He starts flailing out in the back of the van. They pull over, and Dwayne immediately jumps out, runs several yards away, and curls down into a small ball, before letting out a resounding "FUCK!" and bursting into tears.
Also the eye tests Olive picks up at the hospital.
Olive's pink CD player, which turns out to contain the music for her infamous burlesque routine.
Cluster F-Bomb: Dwayne: "You know what? Fuck beauty contests. Life is one fucking beauty contest after another. School, then college, then work... Fuck that. And fuck the Air Force Academy. If I want to fly, I'll find a way to fly. You do what you love, and fuck the rest."
And of course, Grandpa:
"Every night it's the fucking chicken! Holy God Almighty! Is it possible just once we could get something to eat for dinner around here that's not the goddamned fucking chicken?"
Cooldown Hug: How Olive calms Dwayne down after his rant, when he finds out he won't be allowed to join the Air Force.
Averted in that Olive doesn't hear her grandfather's descriptions of his sex life and performs her burlesque routine completely oblivious to its inappropriateness. Dwayne on the other hand, wasn't as lucky.
Dawson Casting: Dwayne is 15 and was played by 22 year old Paul Dano. Also ties into Playing Gertrude, as Toni Collette is only 12 years older than Dano and is playing his mother.
Hollywood Homely: Intentionally. Abby had to put on a fake belly to appear chubbier, and wore large chunky glasses with ill-fitting clothes to complete the illusion; she was more or less at the same weight as the other girls.
Hypocrite: The whole pageant, apparently it's okay to have little girls parade around in bikinis with tons of make up on, but Olive's act is going too far.
Frank: Who is that? Nietzsche? So you stopped talking because of Friedrich Nietzsche? ...Far out.
Other than his vow of silence, he's fairly reasonable and moderate about Nietzsche and his philosophy, displaying none of the Card-Carrying Villain traits often associated with the trope. He only has one rant about how pointless things are and it's delivered right after finding out his only dream in life is impossible (then a hug from his little sister calms him down and he apologizes for lashing out).
Persona Non Grata: The pageant holders inform Olive's family that they won't press charges for their behavior during Olive's talent act, on the condition that they never enter her in another Little Miss pageant in the state of California. Ever again. Subverted though, in that the family's reaction to the news more or less amounted to "That's fine by us!"
Plucky Girl: Olive. No matter what kind of crap she and her family goes through and no matter how insurmountable the odds seem against her, she always manages to remain positive and upbeat. Most of the time, anyway.
Porn Stash: In the back of the bus, next to the dead body.
Queer People Are Funny: Inverted. In a movie that's a fairly precarious blend of comedy and drama, the one openly gay character in the cast (Frank) is one of the most drama-focused. The subplot about his struggle with depression is arguably the darkest part of the story, and he's one of the few characters in the Big Screwed-Up Family whose foibles are played for straight-up drama rather than Black Comedy.
With Richard and Sheryl having a loud argument in the hotel next door, Dwayne simply lies in bed listening. Frank advises him against listening to them bicker and puts on the TV, where a speech by George W. Bush is on. Dwayne shuts it right back off and goes back to listening to the argument.
Olive's dance routine may have been an intentional Take That on the part of her grandfather at the objectification and sexualizing of young girls in these pageants.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: After his F-Bomb moment, Dwayne delivers one to his family out of anger and frustration. Olive is able to calm him down with a hug and the rest of the family are very forgiving of his hurtful words because they understand how upset he was.
The book agent delivers a variation of this to Richard note It's actually more a "Reason You're Not Viable" speech.
Happens to the family as a whole, really. First, the van breaks down. Then, Richard loses his contract. Frank encounters his ex, Grandpa dies, they have to smuggle his body out of the hospital, Dwayne learns that he can no longer be a pilot, and when they finally make it to the place they've gone through so much trouble to get to, they're nearly turned down. The universe really seems to enjoy their trouble.