Plot: What’s it about?
A documentary crew decides to film the goings on at the Sarah Rose Princess American Pageant, and gets more than they ever bargained for. The Sarah Rose contest is celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary in the small town of Mount Rose, Minnesota, and all the seventeen year old girls are ready to go after that tiara! There are several girls who could win the contest, but really, everyone thinks Rebecca Leeman (Denise Richards) is the sure fire winner, not because of her looks or personality, but because of her mother Gladys (Kirstie Alley). Gladys is a former Sarah Rose winner, and she wants her daughter to be the next winner, no matter what it takes. Her main competition, Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst), is sweeter and more likable, but after several “accidents,” including an exploding tractor and a hunting mishap, not only does she wonder if she can win, but can she survive? Amber’s Mom (Ellen Barkin) is wounded (a beer can is burned into her hand) in a trailer park disaster, and Amber suspects foul play, so she decides to take on Rebecca and her mother, and become the next Sarah Rose Princess in the process. As the documentary crew films away, the competition gets hotter and hotter, and we see just how far some people will go to win a beauty pageant.
Drop Dead Gorgeous is a dark comedy, but not as dark as I expected. It’s very funny, and makes light of some controversial topics as well, which I love. The film explores obsession, eating disorders, mental retardation, and family bonds, all while making sure there are plenty of laughs. One very bit I recall is the local hospital, which has a sign that shows an entire wing for eating disorders, showing us how this contest must have a hold on the local girls. Also of note, is the previous year’s winner, who is hospitalized due to her anorexia, to the extent that her hair is falling out. While this is not the typical topic for humor, due to the movie’s subject these segments are very funny. While some may say that making fun of eating disorders is wrong, this is a satire, showing the extremes that these girls go to in order to look “beautiful,” which is both sad and funny. Another hilarious theme in the film is how hard Rebecca’s mother pushes her to win, she makes sure every aspect of her daughter’s life is centered on the contest, and she pays no attention to what her daughter is like on the inside, only making sure her teeth have enough Vaseline on them to properly shine.
The cast of Drop Dead Gorgeous is perfect, and they really bring the beauty pageant world to life. Denise Richards (Wild Things, Starship Troopers) plays the odds on favorite to win, Rebecca, and gives her a wonderful vapid personality, although I think some of Richards’ own self shows in that vapidness. I’m not a fan of Richards, although she works well here, maybe due to the fact that she doesn’t have to stretch much to play the character. She is popular with the males though, but don’t expect any skin in this film, guys. If you need that fix, check out Wild Things. Playing Rebecca’s mother is Kirstie Alley (Summer School, Loverboy), who really gives a knock out performance. Her obsession and desperation is totally believable, and her on-stage work during the pageant is classic. Top challenger to Rebecca, Amber, is played by Kirsten Dunst (Wag the Dog, Dick, Interview With The Vampire), who gives the best performance of her career thus far. She plays Amber with such innocence, even during the embalming scenes. A nice performance, one of the best in recent memory, Dunst is worth the disc’s asking price alone. Almost as entertaining is Amber’s Mom, as acted by Ellen Barkin (Eddie and the Cruisers, The Big Easy). Barkin plays the drunk, but caring mother role to a tee, but then again, she always does well as drunks or drug addicts. Her work really helps to flesh out not only her character, but also Amber’s, as we see where Amber gets some of her traits. Lastly, Brittany Murphy (Clueless, Freeway) gives yet another solid supporting performance, which is she is very good at. I’m very interested in seeing her headline a film, I think she would do great.
Well, now you’re asking yourself, Should I Buy This Movie? I’ll answer for you. If you are easily offended (i.e., you might complain if this site uses a couple curse words), then stay away. This movie touches on some sensitive areas, and it pulls no punches. However, if you have a sense of humor, and if you read my reviews on a daily basis, you just might, I think you’ll have a good laugh with this movie. This disc is a very good treatment of the film, although it lacks supplement. It has some great menus, which have the same dark comedy theme as the movie, as you drop things on the contestants’ heads to navigate the menus. If you are a fan of dark comedies, pick this up, others may want to rent it first, either way, you’ll get your money’s worth with Drop Dead Gorgeous.
Video: How does it look?
New Line includes both the full frame and anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfers on the same side of the disc, which is pretty nifty. The movie is very recent, so the transfer looks very clean, with no problems like flecking or rips. The movie has a polished visual style, which gives it a fabricated feel, which in turn reinforces the fabricated look/feel of some of the characters. Very cool choices in that respect. The colors are awesome, with the pinks and purples getting most of the attention. And hey, since this is a female driven movie, pink is highly appropriate in choice, and I don’t mean the old school “boys like blue, girls like pink” meaning either. Compression errors are absent, which leaves me with a great impression of the disc’s visuals.
Audio: How does it sound?
As with most comedies, the audio mix is good for the movie, but not for demonstrating your home theater. The effects are well done, with a couple large scale explosions to send some shock waves through your speakers, but mostly lower level sounds to be found. The soundtrack is the usual teen fodder, but it sounds good here and fits the film well. Dialogue is perfect, always audible and at a nice volume compared to the music and effects.
Supplements: What are the extras?
You get the original theatrical trailer, as well as cast/crew bios. Man, I would kill for a commentary, but the lack of extras should not scare you away.