Monday, 11 August 2014

The Whole Cool Character Thing: Olive Hoover


I'm just going to make a confession, Olive Hoover is one of my favourite film kids of all time.

Olive Hoover is the-kind of, sort of-main character of Little Miss Sunshine (a film I will blog about at some stage because IT IS ONE OF THE BEST FILMS OF ALL TIME) a film about a dysfunctional family going on a road trip together to get the little girl-Olive-to a beauty pageant. Along the way, there's fall outs, rejections, drugs and death. And it's a comedy. It's also absolutely hilarious and there's bits where everyone cries.

But Olive is perhaps my favourite of the characters.

She's played by Abigail Breslin, who at age TEN got an Oscar nomination for the role because she's brilliant and I could go on about her for ages and she will definitely get a Cool Person blog post to herself at some stage. But this post's about Olive.

Olive is sweet. She's kind and attentive and she tries to do as her parents tell her. She gets on brilliantly with her foul-mouthed, drug-addicted, absolutely hilarious grandfather, who's the primary encourager behind her passion for beauty pageants. It's ironic that she wants to go in for pageants because, in the best way possible, she's like the opposite of the typical image of a pageant queen. She's funny and she's nice to everyone-even the less likeable members of her hilariously dysfunctional family.

And yet, she worries. Her father Richard has what you might call "a mild obsession" with winning and losing, and Olive continually worries that she'll let her father down by being " a loser." It's not helped by a scene in a restaurant, where her father snidely insinuates that if Olive eats a lot of ice cream, she could get fat which could hurt her chances in the beauty competition. And I decide that Richard suffers from what you might call "a mild case of being a dick."

Shut up, Richard.
And then the rest of the family chip in and let Olive eat her ice cream and her brother aims a napkin at Richard's head and everyone silently cheers while she eats.

Seriously, shut up, Richard.
But one of the best things about Olive is that she's a trier. She knows she doesn't look like the other kids going in for the competition. She knows that she's not like them, and that she doesn't look the same. She knows she's the kid from Albuquerque and they've been doing it their whole lives. There's a scene where someone asks if she thinks she can win and she seems to think about it. She admits that the other kids have been doing it for ages "but I practice every day." She knows she's a trier and that in some ways, it's kind of a long shot that she'd win.

But she tries, anyway. She goes for it and she tries. And she isn't one of those kids who's constantly down on herself. She knows she's got a shot and she knows she's good at dancing. Sure, she has her insecurities-there's a really sort of heartbreaking scene where she's on stage with the other kids and we see how different she looks from them and then a shot of her in the changing room, trying to pull her stomach in-but she also knows she's good. At least as good as some of the other kids. Maybe even better.
And she gives the weird pageant host the best raised-eyebrow, creeped-out look of all time.

Olive mirrors the audience's reaction to this creepiness.

There's a scene where a pageant winner signing autographs asks her what her talent is and Olive tells her she's a dancer. The pageant winner then says "You must be a good dancer." And without a trace of arrogance, Olive just says "Yeah...I am."

I love that scene. I love that Olive is proud of herself and knows that she's good at dancing-and it's not portrayed as arrogance or anything else. She just knows that she has a talent. And she's proud of it. For a female character in a movie-particularly a young female character-that's pretty awesome.

And then there's one of my favourite scenes in the movie. It's this scene and it's kind of one of the messages of the movie overall and it's just a really sweet scene with Olive's insecurity and her steadfast side being shown at once. And it sort of mocks the whole idea of "beauty" and "being pretty" as well, which is also awesome. It shows off Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin's acting abilities to a T.

Here it is.

OK, that scene is adorably sweet and it's always the one that comes to mind when I think of Olive. And her determination to keep going and keep trying, even when it seems like everything's against her. And like Grandpa says-insert the cheese here-that's what makes her a winner.

A real loser is somebody who's so afraid of not winning that they don't even try.-Grandpa, Little Miss Sunshine

And Olive is the opposite of a loser.

Of course, she also has that final scene. That final dance scene. And I'm not going to put that in because I'm saving that for when I write about the film overall. And because, my God, it is worth waiting for. If you really want to watch it, you can find it on Youtube. And warning: you might faint laughing. It's brilliant and once again, Abigail Breslin carries the whole thing right.

I'm not going to give away the ending and say whether she wins or loses. I'm not even going to tell you everything that happens to her. But you leave the film with a sense that no matter what happens, Olive is going to be just fine. In fact, she's going to be cool as all hell when she's older-because she's herself and sweet and kind, and she doesn't care too much what people think and she keeps trying. And even if she doesn't get everything she wants, she focuses on the bright side. She's a born trier and she's just herself. And that's unbearably cool.

Plus, she does the best dance moves ever.

Any kid who does these moves is probably cooler than me.

1 comment:

  1. i only recently watched this film and it made me so so happy. olive is such a lovely and funny child agh