Image via Wikipedia* Contains spoilers *
I don't remember if Drop Dead Gorgeous was popular when it came out in 1999, but it has become one of my favorite teen movies. It doesn't try to be a morality play that teaches teenagers about the world; its just a mocumentary filled with one wickedly funny scene after another. The fact that those scenes are strung together with a clever story and great acting makes the film a success in my eyes.
The movie focuses on a small town in Minnesota, situated far away from the "sin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul." Teenage girls queue up to participate in the local beauty pageant -- until one of the contestants drops dead. Our heroine, Amber Atkins (played by Kirsten Dunst), fears she's next. In spite of her desire have the pageant give her the impetus to be "the next Diane Sawyer," she wants to quit. And when the boy she likes -- and for whom she's competing with evil contestant Becky Leeman, played by Denise Richards -- is shot in the head in a supposed hunting accident, she becomes really alarmed.
She sticks around anyway to please her former-contestant mother, but her run for the crown isn't without obstacles. During and after the pageant, an assortment of tragedies befall many of the contestants. One becomes deaf when a stage light meant for Amber hits her on the head instead. But, hey, she wanted to work with the deaf anyway! Then, the anorexic reigning pageant queen begins to lose her hair due to malnutrition, while a mentally challenged young man (brilliantly played by Will Sasso) crashes into a plate glass window. And when the trailer where Amber lives gets blown up, her mother (EllenBarkin) goes flying through the air clutching a beer can that was melted to her hand due to the blast's effect on her Lee Press-on Nails. All the while, the character of Loretta, played by Allison Janney, makes wry observations and tries to pick up male members of the camera crew that's shooting the "documentary" footage. Although Janney doesn't have a lot of screen time, she's one of the best things in the movie -- and that's saying a lot.
Another great aspect of the movie is Denise Richard's performance in the pageant talent show. Even if you don't think Drop Dead Gorgeous would be your cup of tea, you have to see that scene, which is featured below:
And here's the trailer: