Drop Dead Gorgeous (film)

Drop Dead Gorgeous (film)
Drop Dead Gorgeous

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Patrick Jann
Produced by Lona Williams
Written by Lona Williams
Starring Kirstie Alley
Ellen Barkin
Kirsten Dunst
Denise Richards
Allison Janney
Sam McMurray
Mindy Sterling
Brittany Murphy
Amy Adams
Music by Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography Michael Spiller
Editing by Janice Hampton
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) July 23, 1999 (1999-07-23)
Running time 98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10 million
Box office $10,571,408[1]

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a 1999 American dark comedy film directed by Michael Patrick Jann and starring Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Denise Richards, Brittany Murphy and Kirsten Dunst. Shot in a mockumentary format, it follows the contestants in a beauty pageant called the Sarah Rose Cosmetics Mount Rose American Teen Princess Pageant, held in the small town of Mount Rose, Minnesota. The film is also notable for featuring the debut of the Academy Award-nominated actress Amy Adams.[2]



In 1995, the small and staunchly conservative town of Mount Rose, Minnesota is preparing for its annual beauty pageant. Amber Atkins signs up for the pageant, hoping that by winning she will be able to leave the dead-end town and become successful. She also does it to follow in the footsteps of her idols, Diane Sawyer, and her mother, a former contestant. Amber and her mother live in a trailer near their friend Loretta. Amber works as a beautician at the local funeral home, and as a dishwasher at her school. She is a stark contrast to Rebecca Leeman, the daughter of the richest man in town, and of Gladys Leeman. Mrs. Leeman is both the head of the pageant organizing committee and also a former winner who criticizes "big city, no bra-wearing, hairy-legged, women-libber's" opinions on the benefits of pageants. Various business connections between the Leeman Furniture Store and the judges of the pageant (one is an employee) cause many to speculate that the contest will be fixed.

The audience is introduced to the other contestants and judges as the crew documents the trials leading up to the pageant. There are dancing lessons, and group interviews where the girls answer such revealing questions as "if you could be any tree in the forest, what tree would you be?", and individual interviews.

Many odd events occur around town in the run up to the pageant; one of the contestants, Tammy Curry, athlete and President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club (beating out Becky for the leadership), is killed when her tractor explodes. Brett Clemmens, Rebecca's love interest (who is more interested in Amber), is shot dead in a "hunting accident." Fearing for her life, Amber decides to pull out of the pageant after her mother, Annette, is injured during an explosion at their mobile home. Annette lands on a neighbor's lawn after shoving Amber's tap shoes down her panties, and is sent to the hospital for critical burns and the removal of her hand onto which a can of beer melted. After a pep-talk with a family friend, Loretta, and a heart-to-heart with her mother, Amber reconsiders. At the dress rehearsal, fellow contestant Jenelle Betz (originally contestant number 8), swaps positions with Amber (originally contestant number 1). When Jenelle walks on stage at the beginning of rehearsal to perform her talent piece, a stage light falls and hits her in the head, knocking her unconscious, later revealing to have rendered her deaf. Ironically, Janelle's talent in the pageant was to involve sign language.

At the pageant, Amber's tap costume goes missing. Another contestant decides to drop out of the contest, and gives her own talent costume to Amber. Amber performs her tap-dance number to a standing ovation, while Rebecca sings a cringe-worthy rendition of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" and dances with a Jesus doll on a rolling crucifix, horrifying many spectators. Though Amber was clearly the more talented of the two, she is named first runner up to Rebecca, with Leslie Miller, a ditzy but sweet cheerleader for the Mount Rose Muskies, coming in third. However, during the victory parade the next day, Rebecca, in an elaborate swan float designed by her mother and constructed by her father's Mexican workers, is killed in a freak accident caused by Gladys lighting the fireworks at the base of the swan, causing the float to suddenly explode. Standing by the burnt-out float, the grief-stricken Gladys admits to killing Tammy and to being responsible for all the attempts against Amber in the run-up to the pageant in order to get rid of all of Rebecca's competition. She is then arrested. At Rebecca's funeral, Amber is crowned Mount Rose's American Teen Princess and goes on to the state competition.

At the State Competition, Amber wins the Minnesota American Teen Princess title by default after all the other contestants fall ill with seafood-related food poisoning. The reason Amber didn't get food poisoning, however, is because her mom always said, "Never eat anything that carries its house around with it. Who knows the last time its been cleaned." As the winner, Amber gets an all-expenses-paid trip to Lincoln, Alabama, where the national Sarah Rose American Teen Princess Pageant is held. Upon arrival, Amber and the other contestants find that the company has been shut down by the IRS for tax evasion. While the distraught girls wreck the forecourt of the shuttered Sarah Rose Cosmetics building, Amber simply sighs and gets back onto the girls' chartered bus.

A few years later, second runner-up Leslie had entered a beauty school and became an exotic dancer and is now missing somewhere in the Philippines. Harold Vilmes, one of the judges for the pageant, is said to have died from a deer tick bite; in turn, leaving his mentally-disabled little brother, Hank, their paint shop. And after being runner up in a prison beauty pageant, Gladys escapes from prison and takes a sniper position on top of a local supermarket, exhausting her frustrations on the town. During the six hour police siege, a television reporter doing a live report at the scene is hit by a stray bullet; Amber, who happened to be nearby, quickly picks up her mic and takes over, impressing the news station. The film closes with Amber as co-anchor of the evening news for a Minneapolis-St. Paul television station.



The movie is set in the real town of Mount Rose, Minnesota located in Cook County. The accents portrayed in the movie are that of the North Central American dialect found in the Midwest, notably Minnesota.[3]

Kirsten Dunst's character Amber Atkins was inspired by news reporter Diane Sawyer,[citation needed] who is mentioned throughout the film as Amber's idol.

Two Melissa Manchester songs are featured in the film as songs used in the talent portion by contestants. Mary lip-syncs "Don't Cry Out Loud", while Janelle sings and signs "Through the Eyes of Love".


The movie received a mixed reception. Many critics liked the modern interpretation of the pageant world although just as many people disliked the film as a whole. Kirsten Dunst was widely recognized as an actress due to this film. Actress Amy Adams was also praised for her performance, as well as actress Denise Richards.[4][5][6]

In 2011, Allison Janney stated in an interview that she is approached by more fans of this film than for her Emmy-winning tenure on The West Wing.[7]


Drop Dead Gorgeous:
Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released July 13, 1999 (1999-07-13)
Genre Soundtrack
Label Sire
Professional reviews

The reviews parameter has been deprecated. Please move reviews into the “Reception” section of the article. See Moving reviews into article space.

Track listing
No. Title Performer Length
1. "400 Calories" (dialogue) Alexandra Holden (Mary Johanson) 0:21
2. "Number One"   Lifeboy 2:56
3. "She"   Sunday Suit 2:50
4. "Two Months Late" (dialogue) Amy Adams (Leslie Miller) and Thomas Lennon (the Documentarian) 0:19
5. "Pressure Man"   The Feelers 4:29
6. "FAQ" (dialogue) Michael McShane & Will Sasso (Harold & Hank Vilmes) 0:10
7. "Young Americans" (David Bowie cover) Everything 3:40
8. "Beautiful Dreamer"   Mandy Barnett 3:42
9. "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting"   Elton John 4:50
10. "Number One" (dialogue) Janney (Loretta) and Kirsten Dunst (Amber Atkins) 0:17
11. "Girl That's Hip"   Tim Carroll 3:13
12. "Lost Picasso"   Hot Sauce Johnson 3:16
13. "Boot Show" (dialogue) Kirstie Alley (Gladys Leeman) 0:09
14. "Ballad of a Teenage Queen"   Dale Watson 2:26
15. "Counting"   Skirt 2:30
16. "Watch You Sleep"   The Nevers 5:23
17. "Confessions"   Mark Mothersbaugh 2:37
18. "Beauty Pageant Biz" (dialogue) Nora Dunn (Colleen Douglas) 0:22
19. "Devil's Triangle"   Primitive Radio Gods 2:06
20. "9mm" (dialogue) Denise Richards (Rebecca Ann Leeman) 0:16
21. "Can't Take My Eyes Off You"   Denise Richards (Rebecca Ann Leeman) 2:02
22. "Last Laugh" (dialogue) Brittany Murphy (Lisa Swenson) 0:21


External links

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