Saturday, January 15, 2022

Drop Dead Gorgeous

Movie Name:
Drop Dead Gorgeous
Year of Release: 1999
Director: Michael Patrick Jann
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney, Kirstie Alley, Denise Richards, Amy Adams, Brittany Murphy, Sam McMurray, Mindy Sterling, Laurie A. Sinclair, Alexandra Holden, Matt Malloy, Michael McShane, Will Sasso, Brooke Elise Bushman, Casey Garven, John T. Olson, Nora Dunn, Mo Gaffney, Adam West, Jacy King
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
After working on a few TV special and shows, director Michael Patrick Jann made his feature directorial debut with "Drop Dead Gorgeous", tackling an original script from Lona Williams, until then mostly well known for work on "The Drew Carey Show". The film, which is shot akin to a documentary, takes place in Mount Rose, Minnesota, and focuses on the story of a few contestants who are in the running for the annual Sarah Rose Cosmetics Mount Rose American Teen Pageant competition. One of those contestants is Becky Leeman, who is the daughter of one of the organizers, the wealthy and ambitious Gladys, who wants nothing more than for her daughter to become the next winner of the pageant. Another contestant in the running is the hard working Amber Atkins, whose mother Annette is also a former contestant, and whose life has turned out to be somewhat underwhelming, but wishes only the best for her daughter. As the documentary crew follows the contestants on their path to the pageant, a series of incidents and occurrences also start popping out, including the death of fellow contestant Tammy Curry, a usual favorite for the winning position. Amber's mom also ends up in the hospital following a freakish explosion in their trailer, forcing Amber to reassess if she actually wants to participate. As the pageant begins, and more sabotages keep occurring, it only reinforces Amber's motivation to keep in the running and hopefully defeat the Leemans.
"Drop Dead Gorgeous" is a film that aims to emulate the tone and humor of the Christopher Guest films, such as "Waiting for Guffman" or even "Best in Show". That intention in itself is commendable, however the results fall a bit short from those aforementioned features. The problem itself lies with the script, which takes the various scenarios over the top, never allowing for the irony in which the characters find themselves in, to truly gel. Essentially in trying to amp up the parody of the pageant industry, and also of the style Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy solidly established with their films, Lona Williams failed to realize there was already plenty to mine, without the need to include murderous sub-plots or even the poor taste digs at contestants with eating disorders. The characters themselves are also generally speaking, bluntly established cliches, including the vicious rich girl, the hard working humble beautiful lead, the beautiful girl who dates all the boys, the clueless one, the slightly alcoholic mom, and the list goes on. The lack of nuance of most of these characters is also one of the downfalls of this film, since its cast is actually quite solid, particularly Kirsten Dunst, Allison Janney, Amy Adams, Brittany Murphy and Ellen Barkin, all of whom manage to create vivid characters with whatever material they have. It's ultimately a film that could have benefited from a slightly more polished screenplay, alongside a direction that is not so generic. It's watchable, sadly not particularly memorable.