'Drop Dead Gorgeous' Review: When Beauty Pageants Get Ugly
Going into our second week of Mockumentary Month I got the chance to watch Drop Dead Gorgeous starring a young Kirsten Dunst and Denise Richards as two teenage competitors in the 50th Miss Teen Princess America contest in a small Minnesotan town. As you may have guessed the film is very reminiscent of a certain Coen Brothers flick also involving odd accents and outlandish escapades.
The difference between the two films, however, is one does everything right and one does not. In Drop Dead Gorgeous we watch the film through the eyes of a documentary crew hired by the makeup company that sponsors the pageant to commemorate its 50th anniversary. The crew interviews the contestants and it becomes clear very early on that this isn’t a film trying to be traditionally funny. We see our protagonist Amber (Dunst) practice her tap dancing around bodies in her after school job as a makeup artist at a funeral home. More frighteningly so, in some twisted attempt at laughs, the film also features the last winner of the pageant as a teenager battling anorexia who comes on stage in a wheelchair to perform her routine from last year.
I’m not one to scrutinize comedy for going over the rails in terms of what’s “offensive” but the movie’s portrayal of such a horrible illness is depressing, unintelligent and devoid of any comedic effort. Rest assured, however, that the film will not fail to get any more ridiculous. At one point, Amber’s mother gets caught in a trailer fire as a result of sabotage due to her participation in the pageant and has a beer can fuse to her hand for the rest of the film; until she gets a ridiculous prosthetic that is.
If it hasn’t become apparent yet, the film vies for a position of intelligent, entertaining yet deeply reflective comedy but doesn’t have the execution to follow through. It’s obvious the ridiculous personalities of the contestants and judges are simply caricatures of pageant participants in the real world and the movie is attempting to make light of that fact. Written by a beauty pageant survivor herself, Lona Williams, it’s commendable that the movie tries to expose an industry responsible for ruining the lives of countless young women but it’s lack of comedic timing, intelligence, and sensitivity work against its noble message.
A sad attempt at blending the macabre with the hysterical, Drop Dead Gorgeous becomes a twisted reflection of comedy much like the pageant industry horrors it intended to expose. Nonsensical and insulting, this film is certainly not worth anyone’s time.