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Why Little Miss Sunshine Is Still Alan Arkin’s Best Role – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Why Little Miss Sunshine Is Still Alan Arkin’s Best Role



Alan Arkin, an exceptional actor and comedic genius, passed away at the age of 89, leaving behind a remarkable body of work that few from his generation can match. He left audiences captivated with his performances in both comedy and drama, always leaving them craving for more. One of his most outstanding portrayals was that of Edwin Hoover in the film “Little Miss Sunshine.” But who was Alan Arkin, the man behind the character, and how did this movie become the vessel that ensures his memory lives on?

Alan Arkin began his career as one of the founding members of the renowned comedy group, Second City. This group produced an array of brilliant comedic talents, including Robert Klein, Fred Willard, Harold Ramis, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner. Arkin’s association with Second City established him as a formidable improviser and comedic talent. His first film role in “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” (1966) earned him a Golden Globe for best actor and even an Academy Award nomination. From there, he went on to star in numerous movies, including the notable “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1992), as well as television shows like “The Kominsky Method” (2018-2019), showcasing his versatility and earning him nominations and awards throughout his career. However, it was his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006) that truly solidified his talent.

“Little Miss Sunshine” is a captivating dramatic comedy that features an ensemble cast of exceptional actors at pivotal moments in their careers. The film stars Greg Kinnear in one of his final leading roles, Toni Collette a few years after her breakthrough in “The Sixth Sense,” Paul Dano in a role that garnered him critical acclaim, Steve Carell in his first significant dramatic role, Abigail Breslin with an Academy Award-nominated performance, and of course, Alan Arkin. The story revolves around a dysfunctional family consisting of a father aspiring to be a motivational speaker, an overworked mother, a teenage son who has taken a vow of silence, and a young daughter with dreams of competing in beauty pageants. The family’s dynamics become even more complex when the mother’s brother moves in with them after a failed suicide attempt, and the husband’s father joins them after being expelled from a nursing home due to drug use. When Olive, the daughter, is accepted into the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, the family embarks on a road trip in an old yellow Volkswagen bus, determined to support her. However, due to mental health concerns, they must stick together, leaving nobody behind.

One pivotal character in the film is Olive’s grandfather, Edwin. He resides in the family’s basement and takes it upon himself to mentor Olive as she prepares for the pageant. When her father makes discouraging remarks about her chances of winning and advises her to lower her expectations, Edwin boldly intervenes, telling his son to be quiet. He is an unwavering source of support, prioritizing his granddaughter’s happiness above all else. However, Edwin is not without his flaws. He has developed a late-in-life addiction to drugs, particularly snorting heroin, which led to his expulsion from the nursing home and his son’s embarrassment. Throughout the film, Edwin continuously indulges in drugs, ultimately leading to his demise. The family must then navigate the challenge of smuggling his body out of the hospital and into the van. Despite his passing, Edwin’s legacy lives on as the family perseveres and makes it to the pageant, where Olive performs. However, they are taken aback when they realize that Edwin had been teaching Olive a provocative striptease routine. In a heartwarming turn of events, the family, recognizing Edwin’s unwavering support when they were self-absorbed, decides to join Olive on stage. Although she doesn’t win the pageant, their unity becomes a triumph in itself.

In “Little Miss Sunshine,” Alan Arkin delivers one of his most remarkable performances. Known for his sarcastic wit, Arkin fully embraces his character’s curmudgeonly nature in this role. Playing a man who defiantly faces old age with a rebellious spirit, he exudes an air of arrogance and pride. Edwin knows that his time is limited, and he is determined to face death on his own terms. Moreover, Edwin’s dedication to his granddaughter’s happiness becomes his driving force. Despite not conforming to societal standards of beauty, Olive’s desire to participate in the beauty pageant gives both of them a purpose. Arkin’s portrayal of Edwin showcases his exceptional talent as a seasoned actor in both drama and comedy. He masterfully navigates the character’s emotional moments, using his voice modulation to deliver motivational speeches or soften his tone. While the family may have doubts, the audience never questions Edwin’s unwavering support. He embodies the mischievous and affectionate grandfather we all desire and aspire to become. Edwin is grumpy because he has earned the right to be, he dislikes his own son because he deserves it, and he wants nothing but the best for his granddaughter because she deserves it. Arkin takes an ensemble character and elevates him to a level that never overshadows the one character he cherishes the most – Olive. Regardless of his actions, everything he does is in service of making her feel her absolute best. Through Olive’s vibrant spirit and mischievous smile, we catch a glimpse of what the future holds and the indelible mark he has left.

Alan Arkin’s portrayal of Edwin in “Little Miss Sunshine” remains his crowning achievement. His exceptional talent and nuanced performance make the character unforgettable. Even in his absence, Edwin’s influence resonates, reminding us of the power of unwavering support and the strength that can be found within a united family. Alan Arkin was the only actor who could have breathed life into this role with such brilliance, and it undoubtedly stands as his finest work.

Alan Arkin recently died at 89, leaving a library of work that is unmatched by many of his generation. Known as the consummate actor and funny individual, he elevated both comedy and drama in a way that left audiences begging for more.




His best performance was as Edwin Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine. But who was the man, the character, and how did the movie prove to be the vehicle that will keep his memory alive?

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Who was Alan Arkin?

Alan Arkin in The Kominsky Method
Netflix

Alan Arkin started his career as one of the first members of Second City. This comedy group would go on to churn out amazing comedy minds, including Robert Klein, Fred Willard, Harold Ramis, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner.

Thanks to Second City, Arkin was known to be an impressive improviser and comedic talent. In his first film role in a film called The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966), he won a Golden Globe for best actor and was even nominated for an Academy Award.

From there, he went on to star in numerous movies, including 1992’s Glengarry Glen Rossand on TV on shows such as The Kominsky Method (2018-2019). Throughout his career, he earned nominations and awards, with his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor coming from 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine.

What Is Little Miss Sunshine?

The Family in Little Miss Sunshine
Searchlight Pictures

Little Miss Sunshine is a dramatic comedy starring a bevy of amazing actors at pivotal points in their careers. This included Greg Kinnear in one of his last true starring roles, Toni Collette a few years after her role in The Sixth SensePaul Dano in a role that brought him his first true acclaim, Steve Carell in his first dramatic role, Abigail Breslin in a role that garnered her an Academy Award nomination, and Alan Arkin.

The film follows a dysfunctional family. A father who is a wannabe motivational speaker, an overworked mother, a teen son who has taken a vow of silence, and a young daughter who wants to compete in beauty pageants. The mother’s brother has moved in with them after a failed suicide attempt, and the husband’s father has moved in with them after being kicked out of a nursing home for drug use.

The daughter, Olive, is accepted into the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, and the family decides to support her by driving to the event. They drive the 800 miles in an old, yellow Volkswagen bus. Because of mental health concerns, nobody can be left behind.

Related: Little Miss Sunshine: Analyzing the Meaning of Winning

One key role in this film is Olive’s grandfather, Edwin. He is not only living in the family basement but has decided to mentor Olive as she prepares for her beauty pageant. When her father makes comments to Olive about possibly not being pretty enough to win and how she should temper her expectations, it is Edwin who tells his son to shut up. He is an eminently supportive man whose love of his granddaughter trumps all other concerns.

One issue is that Edwin has decided to take up drugs at a late age. He is addicted to snorting heroin and makes no secret of it. It is the reason he was kicked out of the nursing home and just one reason why his son is so embarrassed by him. Over the course of the film, we see that he is constantly sneaking more drugs, and he eventually dies, leaving the family to smuggle his body out of the hospital and into the van.

His legacy lives on as the family makes it to the pageant, and Olive takes her turn on stage. However, the family suddenly realizes that Edwin has been teaching her a risqué striptease. While the entire pageant audience turns against her, the family realizes that Edwin was supportive when they were selfish, and they decide to join Olive on stage. She may not have won, but it brought the family together.

Why It Was Alan Arkin’s Best Role

Little Miss Sunshine - Alan Arkin
Searchlight Pictures

Arkin has always been great at playing the sarcastic guy. As he aged, he found a variety of roles that landed him in the loving, curmudgeon stable of characters.

Little Miss Sunshine was the film that put this to its best use. Arkin comes across as arrogant and prideful. A man who has seen old age and flipped it the bird. He knows he’s going to die, and he’s ready to do it on his own terms. The character of Edwin is also dead-set on his granddaughter’s happiness. Her desire to join the competition despite not being a beauty queen gives them both purpose.

Related: Alan Arkin’s Best Movies, Ranked

Arkin approaches the role in a way that only a seasoned actor in drama and comedy can. He knows his moments and knows when to raise his voice or lower it to a kind of motivational speech. Though the family has its doubts, the audience never does. Edwin is the sneaky grandfather we all want and want to someday be. He is grumpy because he’s earned it, dislikes his own son because he deserves it, and wants the best for his granddaughter because she deserves it.

Arkin takes an ensemble character and puts him on a level that never overshadows the one character he loves, Olive. No matter what he does, it is as a conduit for making her feel the best she ever can. Through her verve and impish smile, we see what the next generation will look like and how he has left the right kind of mark. Alan Arkin is the only one who could make the role as good as it was, and it remains his best.

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