Drop Dead Gorgeous (Movie Review)

beauty pageant comedy movie

The sexy politics of a small-town beauty pageant are the subject of this mockumentary. Kirstie Alley and Denise Richards star in this satire, written by Michael Patrick Jann (the screenwriter for the MTV comedy The State).

In Mount Rose, Minnesota, a group of teen-age girls enter the Sarah Rose Cosmetics Miss Teen Princess America pageant. We root for sweet Amber Atkins, who’s a tap dancer and a dreamer. Her mother, Annette (Barkin), is halfheartedly supportive, but a little stingy with Amber’s ambitions. She’s also in the midst of an obsessive relationship with her best friend, Loretta.

Other contestants include Lisa (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Tess (Anna Friel), Jenelle Betz, Leslie and Molly. All seem sweet, if a bit dim.

Throughout the movie, it’s hard not to laugh at the strange events that happen around town, from a tractor that explodes to Tammy Curry, president of the gun club, being killed in an accident; from Becky’s racist sleazeball husband to a stage light knocking Jenelle unconscious and rendering her deaf. The most grotesque moment occurs when beer-swilling Annette is hit by a stray bomb and her hand becomes permanently welded to a brewski.

In an era when the tabloids still had a place in pop culture, it’s not difficult to see how these pageants could become a cynical cash cow. Drop Dead Gorgeous, however, is less scathing than Williams’ earlier pageant satire, Smile. The film’s scattergun approach is more slapstick than the more nuanced tone of Smile.