Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney,
Drop Dead Gorgeous is a movie starring Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, and Ellen Barkin. A small-town beauty pageant turns deadly as it becomes clear that someone will go to any lengths to win.
  • 6.6 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Lona Williams, Writer:
  • Michael Patrick Jann, Director:
  • Judy Hofflund, Gavin Polone, Producer:

Trailer:

9 / 10

Underrated Comedy

I never expected to enjoy this movie. In fact, I thought I was going to hate it. "Beauty pageant themed, chick-flick comedy", right? Stupid jokes about hair, dresses, and stuff I couldn't care less about, right? Wrong. It's presented in that faux-documentary (or mockumentary) style that Christopher Guest has perfected. It pokes fun at middle America, small towns, that sort of "redneckish patriotism" we see so often, and of course the way these contestants (and their parents) take themselves WAY too seriously. It also shines as a mostly female comedic sandbox where Allison Janney, Ellen Barkin, Kirsten Dunst, Brittany Murphy, and Kirstie Allie can show off their comedic skills (I had no idea that some of them had it in them). All I can say is that it's hilarious. Will Sasso is the greatest "handi-capable" character ever put on film. His "cheerleading" as Kirsten Dunst spells every state in alphabetical order is comedy gold. If you don't laugh...you're dead inside.

8 / 10

An outrageous, deliciously bad-taste classic.

From the moment front-runner Tammy Curry (Brooke Bushman) is blown to pieces on her sabotaged tractor, it's clear this beauty pageant will be fought tooth and nail. And it ain't gonna be pretty.

In the small Midwest community of Mount Rose, Minnesota, the Sarah Rose Miss Teen Princess contest is into the final furlong. But for all the sugar-coated spoutings of world peace and harmony hairspray, it's a question of victory by any means necessary - as a roving documentary film crew discovers.

In the Blue Ribbon rhubarb pie corner is Becky Leeman (Richards, rich kid daughter of former winner and rabidly proud officiating beauty pageant President Gladys (Alley). And in the red, trailer-trash corner is morgue make-up artist Amber Atkins (Dunst), championed by her boozy mother Annette (Barkin) and her mother's morally suspect best friend Loretta (Janney).

Casting wise it's spot on, as Alley launches with smiley, viper spitefulness into a beacon of single-minded hypocrisy, and is well matched by Richards, even if she looks the least convincing high school teenager since Stockard Channing's Rizzo enrolled in Rydell High. Dunst meanwhile blossoms into a very accomplished actress, and - together with Barkin and Janney - claims most of the prize lines.

If there's a weakness it's that the mockumentary approach doesn't always work, and the film drags on a little too long after a seemingly natural conclusion. Still, the dark laughs are consistent, and the parody of middle America's bizarre beauty contest fixation is spiked with some jolting shock tactics - from the nurse-assisted wheelchair dance by the reigning anorexic crown holder to Richards' hilarious (not to mention blasphemous) love song for Jesus - but such blackness never obstructs rooting for Dunst's likable teen. An outrageous, deliciously bad-taste classic.

8/10

8 / 10

Intelligent, witty and biting dark satire

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a film about a teenage beauty pageant. As you might expect; it features plenty of young girls in skimpy outfits, dancing, singing and all that crap. However, unlike a lot of films of the same ilk; here, hidden behind a facade of teen beauty and all the other trademarks of the teen comedy genre, is an intelligently written, witty and very dark satire on the consumer society.

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a filmed in the style of a documentary, a la 'This is Spinal Tap' and follows the escapades of a group of contenders in the annual beauty pageant. The contenders are introduced via a very amusing sequence, which sees them tell the audience about themselves. It's very MTV in the way it's done, with all the girls introducing themselves as shallow, fussy, typical teenage girls. After that, the film starts to set its dark tone, with one of the girls being blown up, and is the tone that will be carried throughout the rest of the movie. Some of the humour in this movie is so dark that even I, a fan of very black comedy, couldn't decide whether to laugh at or not; a woman that gets a beer can melted to her hand, an anorexic previous winner, and the pageant winner being blown up on a huge float are all included in this movie. It's lighter and more tongue in cheek moments are also done very well, such as the part in which one of the judge's brothers gets caught in the car door, or a hilarious 'home video' of an explosion.

The characters in Drop Dead Gorgeous are all, with the exception of Amber Atkins, disagreeable, shallow and overblown stereotypes. This is one of this movie's main assets; it has the parodying of stereotypical people spot on; we've got an "I'm not a pervert" pervert judge, an insensitive, egotistical head of the richest family in town, the overenthusiastic boyfriend and many other colourful and amusing characters. Some of the lines said by these characters are priceless; stupid, but not overly stupid and you really could imagine people like these saying things like the characters in this film do.

The entire cast of this movie excels; it features a lot of small characters and each one plays their part to perfection. The main acting plaudits come for Kirsten Dunst in the starring role of Amber Atkins. Kirsten has the ability to act, and act well and she's also extremely good looking. Many actresses look good and can't act, or vice versa but Kirsten has both abilities, which makes her a very good lady to have in your film. With a few more hits under her belt; Kirsten may well be remembered as the finest actress of her generation. Two other stand out performances come from Kirstie Alley as the former winner of the pageant and mother of one of the contestants; and Ellen Barkin, who brings the characters of Amber's mother to life brilliantly.

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a film that will be overlooked by many because it's a teen comedy. This is a great injustice; here we have a film that is extremely funny, well acted and actually has something to say.

10 / 10

The best of the worst

Quite bluntly, this film is stupid. However, it's a rare breed, one of those "good" "stupid movies". I've read some reviews criticizing this film for not accurately portraying Minnesota. Some viewers simply don't get it. This movie is supposed to be "stupid". It is not supposed to be some supremely accurate social depiction of small town Minnesota. It is a mockumentary and an intentionally absurd exaggeration. And it works like a charm. If you "get it", this will be one of the funniest movies you'll ever view. The actors are almost, top to bottom, perfect... especially the portrayals of Amber Atkins' mother and aunt, and the Vilmes father and son. I can see how certain viewers would absolutely abhor this seemingly inane, ridiculous film. But it is, truly, a phenomenally clever spoof on a competition many treat as life and death. In fact, it's almost frightening that there's a little more realism in this farce than most would like to admit. This film is simply a fabulous little spectacle.

Best line: "You are a good person. Good things happen to good people." "Really?" "No, it's pure bull____, sweetie. You're lucky as hell, so you might as well enjoy it."

7 / 10

Not exactly the most subtle satire, but it works

Beauty contests are of all times and for people of all ages. There are all kinds of contests, but they don't always have a very good status (just to give you a few examples: We have Miss Belgium, but also Miss Egg, Miss Grape, Miss Strawberry...) But one thing they all have in common. The girls that participate in it all believe that they are the only ones that deserve to win and their supporters, with their parents on top, are convinced that their girl is the next miracle on two legs. And there aren't too many differences between the different countries. This movie was clearly intended to make fun of the American beauty contests, but it all felt very familiar.

"Drop Dead Gorgeous" isn't exactly what I would call a subtle satire. They use some standard situations, magnify them by a factor of 1000 and then aim at them with a large cannon so they certainly will not miss their target. Does that mean that the humor isn't any good? No, certainly not. It's sometimes so over-the-top that you will almost certainly have to laugh with it, but it's just not the kind of movie for the people who only like very 'intelligent' comedies. And even though the idea of a 'mockumentary' isn't new, it is done quite well in this movie and in a more or less original way. They make fun of the contestants and their fans in this movie, but don't really spare the TV-crews either. They make for instance fun of their eternal drift to sensation and spectacular news items.

In the end this is a nice comedy that may perhaps not be liked by everybody, but that certainly offered some good performances by all the actors. They made the many funny characters look even more ridiculous as what they are in real life (and that's certainly not always easy). The story was good and the entire movie really could have been a lot worse. I liked what I saw and I give this movie a 7/10, maybe even a 7.5/10.