When my friends suggested we go see Drop Dead Gorgeous, I
agreed only due to the fact that I had a gift certificate and therefore was not
actually paying to see the film. Unfortunately, the Theater Nazis said my gift
certificate could not be used on movies that just opened. Why this is a policy
is beyond me. I could go to the same film with the same certificate a week
later. Where’s the logic?
In any event, I realize that being so biased against a film
ill-suits a self-titled ‘reviewer.’ Therefore, I will assure the reader that I
had no innate bias against the film; I simply was looking more toward
seeing Inspector Gadget or Deep Blue Sea.
Drop Dead Gorgeous was curiously similar to Election,
which came out earlier this year. Both are about competition, and both have
heroines with high aspirations and cutthroat tactics. But where Election
combined both the ambition and the ruthlessness into a single character, Drop
Dead Gorgeous divides it between Denise Richards’s spoiled rich girl and
Kirsten Dunst’s sweet girl next door.
The film is in the format of a documentary, which seemed to me
an odd choice for this film. The documentary is about an annual beauty pageant
in Mount Rose, a small town in Minnesota and apparently the ‘oldest beauty
pageant in America.’ The only entrants are members of the town, and the pageant
is run by former pageant winner Gladys Leeman (Kirstie Alley), whose own
daughter Becky (Richards) is in the pageant this year. Becky’s major rival is
Amber Atkins (Dunst) a poor trailer-park denizen whose mother Annette (Ellen
Barkin) can’t seem to stay away from the bottle (does it mean anything that I
saw the film two nights ago, yet had to go look up all the film names on IMDb?).
The old tradition of ‘bizarre quirky small-town behavior’ is in
full swing here, as Amber practices her tap dancing while working at her
after-school job, putting make-up on corpses at the local funeral
parlor. Becky, on the other hand, just practices being pretty – and
using her handgun at the school gun club, where she’s vice-president. The
president is yet another pageant candidate, and when she is the victim of an
unfortunate tractor accident – it explodes – the film begins its main plot.
While it’s not difficult to figure out the culprit behind the quenched beauty
queens, there is more than enough for the audience to do in is figuring out who
the next victim will be.
While the performances are fine, none of them are particularly
outstanding. Kirstie Alley does fine as the fading beauty queen using her
daughter to fulfill her dreams, but she never truly rounds out the villainous
feel of the role. Richards has nothing to do in the film except look
disturbingly perfect and happy, though she ends up with one of the funniest (and
twisted) scenes in the film.
The star is Dunst, who comes across endearingly as the ambitious
girl who seems too nice to push to achieve her dreams, but they end up being
fulfilled anyway. Dunst portrays Amber with as a sweet, intelligent and nice
girl who gets exactly what she deserves.
And so does everyone else. In fact, pretty much everyone in Drop
Dead Gorgeous ends up with what they deserve. It’s a refreshing film with a
refreshing (if naive) message – everything comes out in the wash.