LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006) is an American comedy-drama film. The road movie plot follows a family's trip to a children's beauty pageant.
03/14/11 | Film

Little Miss Sunshine

by Ryan Manning

One day I see Grandpa Woodstock at Café Prasāda, the last time I’d seen him was the year before, when he was stranded without a ride to West Virginia for the Rainbow Gathering. He never made it to West Virginia that year, but this year the Rainbow Gathering was in Colorado so I knew he must be around somewhere. I’d been looking for him, asking anyone who looked like they were part of The Rainbow Family, to no avail.

Now here he is, and I approach him and he does not seem to recognize me at all, which seems odd, because last summer we spent a lot of time together and he often referred to me as his best friend, though I’m nearly certain he never fully learned my name. I sit with him at a table on the sidewalk. I wait for our friendship to renew itself. He says he needs a driver. He asks if I have a driver’s license. He says he has a van. He asks if I’ll drive to Denver the following morning. I agree, without ever having seen the van. We arrange a time and place to meet.

I arrive at the meeting place at our scheduled time, and meet the person I’m giving a ride to. She’s a companion of his, I don’t remember her name. She sits in the back of this van while I drive and Grandpa sits in the passenger seat. I immediately realize this van is not well. Firstly, the brakes don’t work. I need to press the brake pedal much sooner than is normal. There are maybe certain other problems I don’t remember. I drive very cautiously, and my passengers criticize my technique.

We are on Highway 36 en route to Denver when one of the tires blows. The van stops in a small area between the highway and an exit. None of us has a phone. There is a shopping mall nearby so I walk to it and call AAA, then walk back to the van.

I tell grandpa I need to smoke, which they’d been doing all along but hadn’t let me because I was in charge of driving the death machine. He gives me his pipe and bag of marijuana, but I can’t smoke there due to the likely possibility that a law enforcement officer will show up and start asking questions. I go away from the van, away from the highway to a sort of unkempt area where I feel safe. I am not very far away; I can still hear the traffic but I am out of sight. I smoke and wait. I do this more than once, returning to the van then returning to my hideout to smoke again.

I’m near the van with Grandpa when a cop arrives, and the paraphernalia is in my backpack. The cop asks routine questions and I stand there quietly while grandpa answers. I try to not look suspicious. Before he leaves the cop asks if we have any drugs, Grandpa says no, the cop asks if he can search the van, Grandpa says yes but we haven’t anything. The cop enters the van, which is in a state of disarray, and finds nothing. He departs moments later. We continue to wait.

Eventually the tow truck arrives, but not before I flag down a car and ask to use their phone. There are two women in the car, the driver has a tube in her nose and looks like she’s attached to an oxygen tank. I use their phone to call AAA and ask how soon the tow truck will arrive, because it’s a hot summer day and we are dying out here. The women offer me an opened bottle of water, and I take it, but I feel uncertain if they mean for me to only take a sip or to keep the whole bottle. I keep it, but I feel awkward, because I think I maybe just stole a bottle of water from a cancer patient.

As the AAA truck arrives, the woman I had given a ride to had somehow ordered her own tow truck, and there is some confusion about which tow truck will be towing the van, and to where. She wants to go to Denver and that’s all she cares about. The van belongs to Grandpa, and I belong in Boulder. She tries to commandeer the van with her tow truck in order for her to get a ride to Denver, then she comes to some sort of arrangement with the driver of her tow truck, that she will get a ride without taking the van. Grandpa tells me he thinks she offered her driver sexual favors in exchange for a ride because he has knowledge of her prostituting herself in the past. She leaves, and we stay with our tow truck.

Our tow truck has two men in it, and only fits three passengers. Grandpa remains in his van and I sit in the tow truck. En route to Boulder the two men in the truck ask if I want to smoke, I say yes and we do. I keep thinking about Grandpa back there in his van, wondering about him. We arrive in Boulder and the tow truck drops me off at my apartment, where Grandpa wants to leave his van because he hasn’t anywhere to put it. I enter my apartment building and two of my neighbors, the couple who live directly below me, stop me and ask about the van, I say it belongs to Grandpa and he wants to leave it there, to which they strongly object. I tell Grandpa and the tow truck driver that my neighbors won’t allow this broken vehicle that doesn’t belong to me to be parked in our driveway indefinitely. They take Grandpa and the van and drive him somewhere. I still have his pipe and marijuana. I smoke it.