Drop Dead Gorgeous

10 out of 10


A Dark and Rich Flavour of Humour

Betrayal! Utter betrayal! It's hard to think of any other description. Never before, surely, has a movie been so undermined by its own publicity. If I been an internee at Guantanamo Bay with nothing to see but a brick wall and the inside of a black hood, even I would have no desire to see it on the basis of the trailer, yet I have never found anyone who did not enjoy it. Without a doubt, "Drop Dead Gorgeous" is the finest of its genre, a "mockumentary" in which a supposed TV crew are filming a fly-on-the-wall production in Mount Rose, a fictional town in the boonies of Minnesota about a local round of a national beauty contest. With a script of sheer genius and a cast that seems like a role call of America's most talented comedians, it is certain to entertain and it has never failed to leave me weeping with laughter.

With a typically nauseating cosmetics giant running it nationally, it has a washed up TV star, TV's Batman, played by himself to his credit, by Adam West to front it. In Mount Rose, as always, it is organised by ex-champion, Gladys Leeman (Kirsty Alley) who is married to Lester, a sleazy lush who has made a fortune in town importing cheap furniture from Mexican slave labour, but this time...this time...her own daughter will be one of the contestants. Up against the smug Becky "Jesus Loves Winners" Leeman (Denise Richards) are a slew of girls, each with a personality you cannot avoid either loving or hating. For instance, there's Lisa Swenson (Brittney Murphy of "8 Mile" and "Uptown Girls") wants to be just like her brother, a transvestite performer in New York and the sex-crazed Leslie Miller (Amy Adams of "Serving Sara"). Only two can really challenge her though - farming girl Tammy Curry (Brooke Elise Bushman), an athletic achiever who has already beaten Becky in being elected as President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club and Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst) as the ever-optimistic poor girl who practices her jolly tap-dancing around the corpses at the mortuary where has to work.

A writer for the Drew Carey Show, Lona Williams, herself an ex-contestant in a minor beauty pageant, has developed a screenplay filled with dark humour that always leaves you thinking, "Did she really say that?" For instance, as they film Amber on her trailer park, her mother, Annette (Ellen Barkin) arrives home to snap a stern warning at her, if they ask you to take your top off...make sure you get the money first. For Kirtsy Alley too, this is a masterclass of a performance that shows her to be one of the all time greats of Hollywood as she delivers endless one-liners with perfect timing and all the subtlety of a Medici assassin. For instance, when Gladys is seen parking in a disabled spot at the mall, she shrugs it off, "Don't worry, I'll move if a cripple comes along!"

As we watch, through a combination of innuendo, throw away lines, odd brief glances and that slight phoney hint to some of the lines, we see all the iniquity, backbiting and small-minded cabin fever that exude from life in small town communities. Stretching out your belief as if on a Medieval torture rack, tightly to the maximum, but without ever breaking it, the movie coaxes us into accepting the ever increasingly outrageous events. With the contest's three corrupt judges, one, the father of a retard who murdered his mother and runs the hardware story, a chemist who likes hanging around teen girls with a video camera and Lester's own browbeaten and eternally silent secretary, played by Lona Williams herself, and all backed up by the laughably lazy, donut-stuffing cops, the Bronx is left looking a positively invitingly snug and healthy as a place to live by comparison. Yes, it is stereotyping, but never more beautifully so.

Despite his lack of experience, director Michael Patrick Jann, has, by the end, developped some truly memorable scenes to perfection, including the gun seige on the roof top by an irate mother, two film crews so busy meeting up and backslapping each other that they fail to notice the vast deadly explosion downtown behind them and the synchronised puking of the beauty queens.. This is one never to risk missing.

One of the Best Comedies of

All Time ...It's a Hoot!

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett