Run time: 97 mins
In Theaters: Friday 23rd July 1999
Box Office Worldwide: $10.6M
Production compaines: New Line Cinema, Capella International, KC Medien AG
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: Michael Patrick Jann
Screenwriter: Lona Williams
Starring: Kirsten Dunst as Amber Atkins, Ellen Barkin as Annette Atkins, Allison Janney as Loretta, Denise Richards as Rebecca Ann "Becky" Leeman, Kirstie Alley as Gladys Leeman, Amy Adams as Leslie Miller, Brittany Murphy as Lisa Swenson, Sam McMurray as Lester Leeman, Mindy Sterling as Iris Clark, Alexandra Holden as Mary Johanson, Matt Malloy as John Dough, Judge #1, Will Sasso as Hank Vilmes, Nora Dunn as Colleen Douglas, Adam West as Himself, Seiko Matsuda as Tina / Seiko Howard, Thomas Lennon as Documentarian (voice)
Gorgeous actually began life as a sleepy independent film called Dairy Queens, but, as is common in Hollywood, the gears began a-shiftin' in the heads of sundry studio executives, and before you knew it, Dairy Queens became a big Hollywood movie.
Sort of. Gorgeous keeps a measure of its indie charm by placing the action in a tiny Minnesota town called Mount Rose, which is hosting its annual teen beauty pageant, to the delight of the town's residents. And in the grand tradition of films like Waiting for Guffman, the real story is in the quirky inhabitants of the town, not the main plot line.
The beauty pageant, in a nutshell, pits rich girl Becky (Richards) vs. trailer trash Amber (Dunst), while Becky's mom (Alley) presides over the pageant. Naturally, cat fights and backstabbing ensue, and it becomes readily apparent that the fix is in for Becky.
Well, nothing goes according to plan, and we follow the girls to the state pageant, and through their personal lives, and for the most part, Drop Dead Gorgeous is drop dead hysterical.
But there's something missing. In the rush to invent a clever faux documentary, the filmmakers have left out much of that indie feel. Too much is obviously and blatantly staged for anyone to think for a second this is real. Hollywood can never leave well enough alone. By the time we get to the third act (the state pageant), the film has gone so far over the top that it loses its charm.
Still, I recommend Gorgeous on the overall strength of its comedy. But in that little "documentary" text opener, how much I would have given to see it followed by the words: "Their footage was found buried in the woods a year later."
Oh, the humanity!
[As a side note, I have to add that it's been a pleasure watching Kirsten Dunst grow up on celluloid. From Little Women to ER to Gorgeous, Dunst is becoming a real actor. filmcritic.com offers its congratulations.]
She's gonna make it after all...