Story: 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? As the documentary crew films away, the competition gets wilder and we see just how far some people will go to win a beauty pageant.
Entertainment Value: The world of beauty pageants has a surface coated with glamour and glitter, but as countless personal stories have relayed, there is also a darker side involved. In Drop Dead Gorgeous, we’re shown that dark side and while the tone is humor dripping with acid, it still hits home with the dysfunction that is entrenched in these pageants. The main theme seems to be the toll the pressures can take on the young performers, whether from intense parental mandates or their own personal drives, which is what gives the humor that darkness. So if you don’t have a taste for light edge in your comedy, Drop Dead Gorgeous might offend, especially given some of the subject matter involved. I appreciated the colorful, over the top characters and the movie is packed with them, even minor ones seem to make an impression of some kind. The writing is solid, but even when it dips, the talented cast and wild characters help compensate. So if you like dark comedies, this one is recommended.
This one has a deep, fun cast that makes sure even the weaker moments work well enough. Kirsten Dunst was the standout for me when this was first released and her performance holds up even years later. She plays Amber with such innocence, even during the embalming scenes. Her presence just works so well with the dark tone of the comedy, as Amber seems so pure and innocent. Almost as entertaining is Amber’s Mom, as played by Ellen Barkin. 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. The cast also includes Denis Richards, Allison Janney, and Brittany Murphy.
The Disc: Warner Archive has brought Drop Dead Gorgeous to Blu-ray and it looks fantastic, surpassing all expectations. The faux documentary style is well represented here, with a little more grain than usual, which helps keep that aesthetic in place. The grain looks natural and is never a concern, while detail remains crisp and impressive throughout. No worries with colors, which look natural and black levels are on the mark. This is a terrific visual presentation across the board. The film’s trailer has been included as a supplement.