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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.
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.
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.
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."
Ellen Barkin is the trailer trash mother of Amber (Kirsten Dunst),
Kirstie Alley is the homicidally ambitious mother of Becky (Denise
Richards) a spoilt rich bitch. They will stop at nothing to make sure
their daughters win the Mount Rose beauty pageant, and i mean nothing.
The whole movie is made in incredibly bad taste and for that reason alone, a lot of people will hate it; but i found it was very refreshing to see a black comedy of this quality for a change. It's wonderfully scripted and directed, and the cast is simply perfect; everyone in it appears to be relishing the humour in the movie and it shows in their performances.
If you like this kind of humour, you will love this, if you don't warm to black comedy then it's best left alone.
8/10 Personally i think its great.
This is a seriously funny film, deeply subversive and a great piece of
work. What it's not is a satire on the vacuousness of beauty pageants.
DDG aims at the emptiness of our whole materialistic culture and the way we have traded in the more valuable things in life for the pursuit of a perfect self image and will even cash in that perverted, limited objective for a few minutes of fame on TV. Life is a house of cards with hidden truths under every shiny surface.
The humour is so dense and the jokes are so profligately thrown around that it occasionally feels like an incarnation of The Simpsons, 54 episodes of which benefited from the efforts of DDG scriptwriter Lona Williams. She may have written your favourite. The performances are no less praiseworthy with outstanding leads and fabulous and memorable minor characters. Look out for the Sheriff. Amongst them all, I'll single out two which I think are pitch perfect, Sam McMurray as the ruthless father in thrall to his wife and daughter and Nora Dunn as the drunken 'has it come to this?' State Pageant organiser. There are lots of others to choose from.
Every you time you watch you get something new, enabling you to rejoice further in the fact that half the people who watch it don't get any of it at all. In fact it's so sharp that even people who like this type of thing can get cut to pieces by it. We are, after all, watching ourselves. Mind your fingers . . .
Most smartest and funniest American film since The Producers? Yes, it's THAT good.
This is a great film for anyone who hates beauty pageants, and enjoys dark humor. The "mockumentary" aspect was done greatly, and the performances were also great, especially by (the very hot) Kirsten Dunst. I really like films that poke fun at serious topics (like death and mourning), and this one did a great job of it without being completely tasteless.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Imagine a weird blend of "This Is Spinal Tap" and "Fargo" and you will
have a fairly good read on 1999's "Drop Dead Gorgeous. There is
definitely a Coen Brothers feel to the film, which is done in
"mockumentary" style and told from the point of view of a film crew
investigating the world of local beauty pageants; specifically the Miss
Teen Princess contest in Mount Rose, Minnesota.
But it would be a mistake to think that this is just a satire of the beauty pageant world or of folks from Minnesota. The film has much bigger targets, as it pretty much takes on every excess to be found in the competitive culture of modern American. Making it the most subversive comedy since "Dr. Strangelove". It may not have the consistency of Kubrick's masterpiece, but it has a slightly higher comic hit to miss ratio than "Airplane".
Former Miss Teen Princess Gladys Leeman (Kirstie Alley) is in charge of the Mount Rose preliminary, a conflict of interest because her daughter Becky (Denise Richards) (a younger version of her mercenary mother) is a leading contender. After murdering her daughter's only real competition, Gladys targets trailer-park girl Amber (Kirsten Dunst), who hopes to use the contest as a means to follow in the footsteps of her idol Diane Sawyer.
There are so many different types of humor in "Drop Dead Gorgeous" that almost any viewer will find something amusing. But the degree of amusement will be in direct proportion to your degree of irreverence and "nothing sacred" attitudes. So if you are easily offended or are sense of humor challenged you would do well to stay away from this film.
I particularly liked the contestant's dramatic reading from "Soylent Green", and Britney Murphy's line about being conceived because her parents wanted someone who could donate a kidney to her older brother.
Although she only has a small part, Murphy pretty much steals every scene in which she appears. The three big parts (Alley, Richards, and Dunst) are played straight (or with parodied straightness) so most of the comedy comes from the supporting cast; most notably Allison Janney as a trailer park neighbor, Will Sasso as a mentally challenged small businessman, Seiko Matsudo as the resentful biological daughter of an Asian couple who dotes on their adopted Caucasian daughter, and Matt Malloy as a contest judge with a not so secret agenda.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
I really found Drop Dead Gorgeous great!! I've seen it on TV and I
found it really hilarious. Humour is very dark and second degree,
mocking as much beauty pageants and deep America and the decision ways
in small towns as well as the fake values so often praised by
mainstream television. Several scenes are incredibly funny (but cannot
be described here in order to avoid spoilers).
The cast is great (and includes the marvelous Denise Richards as well as a bunch of Young great actresses)and the scenario follows its dark humor to the end of the movie.
Definitively a movie to watch, especially if you are open minded and like deep irony and subtle but strong messages.
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