Urban Cinefile
"Working with him was heaven.just heaven. We share the same sense of humour - very blue! "  -Judi Dench on Billy Connolly
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday July 12, 2018 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



In the quiet Minnesota town of Mount Rose itís time for the annual American Teen Princess pageant. Sponsored by a cosmetics company, it offers a chance at undreamed of glory for one lucky girl. A documentary crew comes to town to cover the preliminary judging. The local contest is run by Gladys Leeman (Kirstie Alley) who picks the judges and whose daughter Becky (Denise Richards) is - coincidentally ? - one of the front-runners for the prize. Her main competition comes from Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst) who lives in a trailer park with her hard-living mother (Ellen Barkin). Amber works part-time in the local mortuary, practicing her tap routines. But then several of the contestants meet with terrible, suspicious accidents. Is someone so determined to win theyíll resort to murder?

"You can take the title literally Ė drop dead and gorgeous. Separately or put them together. If we ever wondered about beauty pageants and in what kind of zoo they belong, Drop Dead Gorgeous will offer some explanations, however improbable. This mockumentary is a mischievous, cutting and tongue-in-cheek look backstage. We meet the ambitious mothers, the cut-throat contestants, the reigning anorexic beauty queen and the judges Ė from the pervert to the out-of-touch. The best thing in Drop Dead Gorgeous is Ellen Barkin's crass, foul-mouthed, loving mother, whose pulsating ambition for her daughter never wavers. This is a quirky comedic Barkin that we haven't seen before, and she is really a sight to be seen. Kirsty Alley is great as the catty, stop-at-nothing mum while Denise Richards and Kirsten Dunst radiate in the spotlight. It's energetic, fresh and full of black, off-beat humour, displaying claws galore and yowling foul-play. Enough to put you off even thinking about going into a beauty contest. Deadly in disposition, satirical in substance, Drop Dead Gorgeous is a fun escape into a world where beauty is definitely skin deep."
Louise Keller

"I had the pleasure of seeing Drop Dead Gorgeous at a screening attended by its director Michael Patrick Jann, who described it as "a big, fat American film". Well, compared with some recent bloated "blockbusters" from the US, this sharply written and bitingly satirical film looks positively anorexic. He also commented it was "best seen when youíre drunk". Iíll leave that one up to you. Jann has essentially taken Waiting for Guffman to the next level, imbuing the mockumentary format with a very black humour. He plays on some of the worst fears about small-town America, no doubt inspired by real-life events like the Texas cheerleaderís mom who hired a "hitman" (actually a cop) to eliminate her daughterís competition. The film uses the pageant as an allegory for the American dream; and contrasts those who work for it with those who resort to dishonesty - and worse. Unfortunately, in the process itís guilty of perpetuating stereotypes and, towards the end, it runs out of control somewhat, going for some cheap poor-taste laughs. But when Lona Williamsí script is firing (as it does for the best part) the satire is side-splittingly funny. Kirsten Dunst does a great job as Amber, the good-hearted kid from the wrong side of the tracks. She doesnít play up the comedy, keeping it straight (just as mockumentary requires). Kirstie Alley seems to be having a wonderful time as Gladys, the bulldozer-in-a-frock; as does Ellen Barkin as Amberís trailer-trash mother. Drop Dead Gorgeous is a hilarious lampoon and an acerbic social observation thatíll have you simultaneously belly-laughing and cringing."
David Edwards

"Beware this film. The title is Drop Dead Gorgeous, but, of course, it should have been Drop Dead, Gorgeous. If you're easily shocked, drop dead. If you're gorgeous, drop in. This subversive, black and nasty piece of work is sometime hilarious and always confronting; your maiden aunt won't understand it nor should she. It's post modern and post mailman; the girls are vying for a higher honour than mere beauty, but if you deconstruct it, they're vying for a higher honour than they can articulate. It's middle America but also middle western world, where the real issues are self esteem, self aggrandisement and selfishness, in any order you please. People die, people vomit, people betray each other and people put up a front - nothing you don't see every day, of course. Where is this film coming from? Deepest, darkest contemporary America. It's a doco. And even though it pretends to be a doco, it's actually a doco. I warned you."
Andrew L. Urban

Email this article

Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0


CAST: Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, Sam McMurray, Mindy Stirling

DIRECTOR: Michael Patrick Jann

PRODUCER: Gavin Polone, Judy Hofflund

SCRIPT: Lona Williams


EDITOR: David Codron

MUSIC: Mark Mothersbaugh


RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 11, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: May 9, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2018