While there are some things in the film that haven’t aged well, Drop Dead Gorgeous is still able to offer up a ton of laughs in the dark comedy.
A short video introduces us to the Sarah Rose American Teen Princess Pageant hosted by Batman himself, Adam West. The video may not exactly set up the tone for what we’re going to expect but we’re in for a treat. Once those accents start up, we know we’re in Minnesota. The fictional Mount Rose to be precise as a documentary crew is filming the local pageant. As Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst) tells us, you don’t leave the city without a hockey scholarship or a prison sentence. Amber’s main inspiration for competing isn’t as much her mother, Annette (Ellen Barkin), in as much as it is her hero, Diane Sawyer.
Going against Amber’s hopes is the leadership of Gladys Leeman (Kirstie Alley) and her daughter Rebecca “Becky” Leeman (Denise Richards). People, including potential contestents, start turning up dead or injured. Nobody knows who is behind it. Amber’s own mom becomes a burn victim when their trailer explodes. Amber wasn’t home but the writing is on the wall. It’s no joke that Gladys wants her daughter to win and how best to do that but take out the competition. Unfortunately for Gladys, Amber wasn’t home when the trailer burns and she switched numbers with another contestant who later gets injured when a stage light falls.
I became a Kirsten Dunst fan through her work in Dick and Bring It On prior to the Spider-Man trilogy. It’s no surprise that I enjoyed her work in this film. While her work here is different from the other two comedies, she is still just as fun to watch. Even knowing that disaster can strike at moment’s notice, the film doesn’t waste her talent at all.
When you look at the names of those actresses nominated for an outstanding supporting role, Allison Janney’s name is missing. This role came just a mere few months before Janney started her run as C.J. Cregg on The West Wing. Sure, she would earn four Emmy wins in five years but that’s beside the point. Her performance in this film is every bit as worthy of an Oscar nomination. The actress has shown her comedic chops in other films and television series, most notably Mom, but there’s so much of why America loves her in this film.
Future Oscar nominee Amy Adams made her feature debut in the dark comedy. We may not have realized it at the time but we were paying witness to the start of a special career. Adams has the most screen time from among the other pageant contestants. It may not be as memorable as her other roles but with what screen time she does have, Adams shows promise of what’s to come.
One of the things in Drop Dead Gorgeous that hasn’t aged well is the use of the R word to describe Will Sasso’s mentally handicapped Hank Vilmes. The word is used a lot during the film. Obviously, the film must be viewed through the lens of when it was made in the late 1990s but the fact remains that such a word would be insensitive for 2018. One of the judges, John Dough (Matt Malloy), is clearly a pedophile! We can see it in his behavior throughout the film. How the hell is he qualified for this job?!?
In spite of all the predictability, the campy tone of Drop Dead Gorgeous, combined with such fun performances, is what makes it so wonderful.
DIRECTOR: Michael Patrick Jann
SCREENWRITER: Lona Williams
CAST: Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, Brittany Murphy, Allison Janney, Amy Adams