Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)

Directed by Michael Patrick Jann
Written by Lona Williams
Starring Kirsten Dunst, Denise Richards, Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Welcome to Mount Rose, Minnesota.  You're just in time for the local beauty paegant, where seventeen-year-old ladies from all over town compete to see who will go on to the state contest.  And everyone agrees--the two to beat are Amber Atkins (Dunst), Diane Sawyer wannabe and funeral home makeup artist, and Becky Lehman (Richards), spoiled brat and overachiever from hell.  Behind them are their mothers, who support them in...distinctly different ways.  Amber's mother, Annette (Barkin), is a hairdresser and chain smoker.  Becky's mother, Gladys (Alley), is conveniently the head of the local paegant booster organization.  The competition is ugly enough to begin with, but when people start mysteriously dropping dead it gets even worse.

Let me state this first:  I have no problem with black and tasteless humor.  What I do have a problem with is when they leave out the humor part.  Now before you think I'm trashing this film from one end to the other, think again.  The majority of this film is absolutely hilarious.  The characters' particular quirks are not only well written but acted perfectly as well.  Couple that with the mockumentary nature of the film and you get to see Dunst put makeup on corpses and tapdance simultaneously--with a straight face.  That's the kind of dark and ridiculously funny scenes you can expect.  Throw in great supporting roles by Michael McShane and Matt Malloy and it's a wonderful thing to behold.

However, it's too good to last.  The last twenty minutes of the film completely fall apart.  First of all, this last part is not funny at all, relying on the inherent wit or lack thereof of watching dozens of people projectile vomit, which as you know is just a gutbuster and a half.  Secondly, during the last twenty minutes the story meanders from place to place trying desperately to find an ending.  It's amazing because in this movie you can literally spot the seam where it crosses the line from the really good section to the completely botched one.  I suspect there had to have been a vicious rewrite, since the film was so wonderfully clever up until that point.  It's a damn shame because it was bucking for a great rating before it completely descended into the abyss.

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