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05.24.2001

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flick pick | Drop Dead Gorgeous 1999
Directed by: Michael Patrick Jann
Written by: Lona Williams
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney, Denise Richards, Kirstie Alley
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
comedy
Watch it when youíre in the mood for something:
darkly comic, true?!?
The verdict: Ĺ/ 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis In all-American Mount Rose, Minnesota, itís time again for the annual beauty pageant. Local pageant chairwoman Gladys Leeman, a winner back in her day, has a lot at stake this year: her daughter Becky is competing for the crown, and Gladys is dead set on making sure her precious little girl gets it. And if that means resorting to drastic criminal measures Ė a bizarre tractor accident here, falling stage lights and a suspicious trailer fire there Ė so be it. But sweet golden girl Amber Atkins may just foil Gladysí nefarious plans. Amberís pretty, popular and kind-hearted to the point of saintliness, but sheís also extremely determined to follow in the footsteps of her idol Diane Sawyer, a former Junior Miss America. Itís all out war as the townís beauties and cuties vie for the coveted crown.

Review Drop Dead Gorgeous doesnít laugh with its beauty pageant-obsessed characters. It laughs at them, long and hard and relentlessly, making pointed jabs at their vapidity, their superficiality, their cattiness, their misplaced determination, their small-town mentality. Itís sometimes so mean-spirited that you feel a twinge of guilt for laughing yourself, and if youíre a person uncomfortable with snobbery and non-political-correctness, be warned: you may well find this movie offensive. So maybe this means Iím not the nicest person in the world, because honestly, there are many moments in Drop Dead Gorgeous that strike me as really rather funny indeed. True, the fake documentary style doesnít work nearly as well for DDG as it does for a classic mockumentary like This is Spinal Tap, whose brilliance derives from the fact that youíre never quite sure whether these people are real or not. Here, the accents are super-exaggerated fake Minnesotan (Kirstie Alley's is particularly atrocious), and the characters are absurd caricatures of beauty pageant, middle-America stereotypes, rather than plausibly quirky personalities. But what I like about this movie is that itís not afraid to take a few chances with the outrageous. And while some of the darkly comic jokes donít work at all (notably a cringe-inducingly not-funny bit involving the previous yearís pageant-winner, an anorexic), others, like the beer can that gets melded to Mrs. Atkinsí hand when her trailer suddenly combusts, and the local Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club of which Becky is vice-president, border on the inspired. Drop Dead Gorgeous isnít a smart satire to be sure, but youíre a better person than I am if you can watch this without letting a few guffaws escape. óreviewed by Y. Sun 

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