Study Questions for Little Miss Sunshine
- How does the opening sequence of the film, where Olive is depicted watching a video, help us understand the film thematically?
- What do you think Richard’s motivational speech regarding his nine-step program might tell us about himself and the other major characters in the story? What do you think the filmmaker might be criticising through Richard’s speech?
- What might be the importance of the family dinner sequence? How does this sequence help us understand the film? Please provide examples.
- What is a road movie? Find the characteristics of a road movie and then discuss in what ways these characteristics can be found in “Little Miss Sunshine”.
- Discuss the significance of the yellow and white Volkswagen in the film. What might its colours reveal about the characters and the themes? What might be the significance of the bus being very old and not working properly? What might be the significance of it functioning only in third and fourth gear? Also please comment on the importance of the following: “the horn of the bus” and “the Hoover family pushing the bus”.
- Could the Hoover family’s name be symbolic? Why? Why not?
- Examine the pageant scenes carefully and comment on the portrayals of children and their families in these scenes. How do you feel about these portrayals? What do you think the filmmaker might be aiming to do through such portrayals?
- What do you think about Olive’s dance? In what ways would you take it as a parody?
- Discuss the concept of “winners vs. losers” in the film. How is it portrayed in the film? Do you see any change in the meaning of this concept throughout the film? Why? Why not? How?
- In what ways do you think “Little Miss Sunshine” might be satirizing with regard to societal norms and constructions of identity?
- Discuss the following: “All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way (Tolstoy, 1877- Cited in Philip A. Ringstrom’s review of the film, as published in the International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology 6:113-123, 2011.)