Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

Photo Credit: Drop Dead Gorgeous / New Line Cinema
Forget Mean Girls and it's oh-so-popular quotes. For a movie dealing with high school cliques, it's good...but as my favorite teen movie dealing with teenage culture, specifically young women, nothing compares to the dark, twisted comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous.

In Minnesota, if you are a male high school student, your options of escaping this small town is through prison or hockey scholarships. If "you're seventeen, a girl, and not a total fry", the Mount Rose American Teen Princess Pageant is just what you do. For this year's festivities on display in this faux documentary, a Hollywood camera crew follows the making of the pageant, where contestants are mysteriously killed off.

Starring Kirsten Dunst as an underdog contestant living in a trailer with her chain-smoking mom (Ellen Barkin), this young teen endears the hearts of everyone she meets. Hardworking and aspiring to be the next Diane Sawyer, she proves to be the main competitor against Rebecca Ann Leeman (Denise Richards); the predicted top dog who lives a comfortable lifestyle as the daughter of the religious pageant committee leader Gladys (Kirstie Alley).

Young adult movies typically deal with themes of feeling like an outcast, falling in love for the first time, or overthrowing a totalitarian government. None of the characters have to contend with being the chosen one. When the documentary delves deeper into the pageant and its history we come across a previous anorexic winner, a creepy peeping tom as a pageant judge, and the not-so-subtle art of jokes poking at ignorant small-town 'Merica. White trash and no holds barred, this 1999 flick is an entire antithesis of your usual coming-of-age entertainment.
I chose Mount Rushmore. 'Cause to live in a country where you can take an ugly old mountain and put faces on it, faces of great Americans who did so much to make our country super great. Well, that makes me Rebecca Leeman, proud to be an American.
Other actresses also must be mentioned. In one of her earliest roles and my favorites, 5-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams once started out showing her comedic side as the slutty aloof cheerleader. Brittany Murphy charms as Lisa Swenson, an enthusiastic daughter who trails her cross-dressing brother to the Big Apple. Veteran actresses also include Ellen Barkin (Amber's boozy mom), Allison Janney (Amber's promiscuous neighbor) and Kirstie Alley (Rebecca's ignorant and spiteful mother). All of the characters could be at face-value looked upon as basic stereotypes but their roles are seriously portrayed with honesty, wit, and intelligence.

If I could elude to my favorite aspect it would most definitely have to be the script. Written by Lona Williams, dialogue is not exactly fitting for today's sense of humor challenged world...yet it is so hard not to quote on a daily basis. I'll be honest to say that I can recite it from beginning to end. The crucial delivery of the story's environment and characters' off-colored humor is only delivered because the film's sense of knowing when it's gone too far and managing to allow these outlandish (mostly ignorant and close-minded people) revolve around each other in bold white-trash craziness.

The film is much more about the basic stereotypes not only in which young teen girls are boxed into in high school but also the superficial world of beauty pageants, its hell-raising competition, and what it means to girls venturing towards something bigger than themselves. On he surface, the movie might seem outlandish, but probing deeper, the movie is hilariously smart.

Mixing the mockumentary style Christopher Guest's cult classics like This Is Spinal Tap, and the environmental atmosphere of Fargo, this cult classic is a comedy that is easily devour able. When most hear a movie about beauty pageants, immediately there are visions of superficiality and the lowered standard women. This turns those ideals back at us so we can be thoroughly entertained. Drop Dead Gorgeous might be wild, twisted, and dark, but its characters, script and timing centered around white trash high school and girl culture is hilarious and drop dead perfect.

Have you seen Drop Dead Gorgeous? What do you think?

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