Drop Dead Gorgeous

"If you could be any tree in the woods, what kind of tree would you be?"

There has been a trend, in the summer of 1999, of movies that are rude, crude, irreverent, insulting and hilarious. South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me are good examples and now Drop Dead Gorgeous joins their ranks. It’s a mean-spirited and often inspired satire of beauty pageant traditions that takes absolutely no prisoners and draws few boundaries for itself.

Drop Dead Gorgeous is actually a mockumentary: supposedly, a documentary film crew is sent to film the events surrounding a beauty pageant in the fictitious town of Mount Rose, Minnesota. There, girls compete for the title of Mount Rose American Teen Princess — and it gets ugly. There, Gladys Leeman (Kirstie Alley), the pageant organizer, is campaigning like mad to get her daughter, Becky Leeman (Denise Richards) to be the winner of the pageant. That campaigning just might include killing some of the other contestants to get them out of the way.

Then there’s Amber Atkins — the “good girl” contestant — and the local sentimental favorite. But she gets scared after a few contestans are apparently killed and her mother’s trailer is blown up, fusing a beer can to her chain-smoking mother’s hand. Her Mother (Ellen Barkin) almost kills Amber herself after she tries to tell her that she wants to quit the pageant so that she winds up staying in.

This is definitely one of the funnier movies to come along this year, although much of the humor is mean-spirited and some even sadistic. Rookie director Michael Patrick Jann stages all of his gags in such a deadpan (no pun intended) style that it’s difficult not to laugh. While we may not always be proud at what we are laughing at (an anorexic former pageant winner who just kept dieting after she won?), there’s no denying that Drop Dead Gorgeous is witty and clever.

Denise Richards gives a wonderful performance as the snotty Becky Leeman; while I’d have to say that her performance was the most outstanding, I also liked most of the others. Kirstie Alley is terrific as the scheming pageant overseer and Ellen Barkin gives a funny performance as Amber’s very troubled mother.

This is clever, although admittedly not always very intelligent satire. It may make fun of everybody it can get it’s teeth on, but it’s funny and it’s fun to watch. This is the kind of film that appeals to our more sadistic sides.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

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Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

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Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

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