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Well, as far as black comedies go, Drop Dead Gorgeous is certainly the most colourful! Set in the small-town-America community of Mount Rose, Minnesota, it's the accents that hit you first. (Remember Fargo?) This stellar cast, of mainly beautiful women, does a hilarious job of playing kill or is killed, in the cutthroat annual Mount Rose, Miss Teen Princess America pageant.
Kirstie Alley is beautifully cast as Gladys Leeman, chairwoman, organiser and ex-queen of the pageant. An upstanding, moral pillar of the community who will stop at nothing to ensure that her daughter is this years winner, including berating, bribing, and killing other members of the Mount Rose community. Daughter Denise Richards, an implausibly beautiful girl who is rich, spoilt and Vice-President of the Lutheran Sisterhood gun club plays Becky to perfection. A crack shot that will also stop at nothing. Immediately established as the baddies of the piece, we're presented this story through the fresh, out-of-town eyes of a documentary crew, who have come to Mount Rose to cover the pageant. From the other side of the tracks, we meet contestant Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst) who just happens to work in the local funeral parlour as the makeup artist, and her trailer trash mom Annette (Ellen Barkin). It soon becomes obvious that Amber is Becky's main competition, and that she's in big trouble.
The twisted tale which unfolds the town’s misfit inhabitants who bumble their way through the pageant, goaded, pushed and cajoled by the tyrannical Gladys and her team of assistants. The small town is at fever pitch. All the local girls try out and rehearse their hilarious routines - the interpretive sign language dance is inspired - but as the pageant approaches, more and more townsfolk are meeting sticky ends. The funniest of these misadventures finds Annette Atkins' trailer molotov cocktailed into oblivion. The explosion sends her skyhigh and fuses the beercan she was holding, to her barbecued right hand. She spends the rest of the film wheelchair bound and utilising her new appendage to great effect.
The script is brave and hilariously funny, penned by real life, small town teen beauty contestant, Lona Williams, who swears nearly all of it is true. The humour has been pushed over the top by first time
director Michael Patrick Jann, whose comic training at MTV obviously served him well. They've both succeeded in parodying the ridiculous, portraying small town America and it's folk in all their cheesy
plastic glory. The outrageousness of their antics counterpoints beautifully with lip-gloss, tap shoes and manicures.
The wealth of supporting talent serves to round out the community. Will Sasso from Mad TV is painfully poignant as Hank Vilmes, the mentally retarded son of one of the pageant judges, as is Minnesota native Amy Adams as Leslie Miller, the previous year’s winner, hospitalised with anorexia. The meatiest support role goes to veteran actress Allison Janney who is just hilarious as Annette’s slutty best friend Loretta.
This film follows a recent Hollywood trend of making a big budget shebang look and feel like a low budget cult movie, but is a rare exception in that it pulls it off, thanks mainly to a great script and even better casting.