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Drop Dead Gorgeous Review

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In a small Minnesota town, some parents - and girls - will stop at nothing to win the annual beauty pageant. And with a film crew covering this year's events, the stakes have never been higher. But as the rivalry mounts between rich bitch Becky (Richards) and winsome trailer trash Amber (Dunst) so does the body count.

★★★★

From the moment front-runner Tammy Curry (Brooke Bushman) is blown to pieces on her sabotaged tractor, it's clear this beauty pageant will be fought tooth and nail. And it ain't gonna be pretty. In the small Midwest community of Mount Rose, Minnesota, the Sarah Rose Miss Teen Princess America contest is into the final furlong. But for all the sugar-coated spoutings of world peace and harmony hairspray, it's a question of victory by any means necessary - as a roving documentary film crew discovers.

In the Blue Ribbon rhubarb pie corner is Becky Leeman (Richards), rich kid daughter of former winner and rabidly proud officiating beauty pageant President Gladys (Alley). And in the red, trailer-trash corner is morgue make-up artist Amber Atkins (Dunst), championed by her boozy mother Annette (Barkin) and her mother's morally suspect best friend Loretta (Allison Janney).

Casting wise it's spot on, as Alley launches with smiley, viper spitefulness into a beacon of single-minded hypocrisy, and is well matched by Richards, even if she looks the least convincing high school teenager since Stockard Channing's Rizzo enrolled in Rydell High. Dunst meanwhile is blossoming into a very accomplished actress, and - together with Barkin and Janney - claims most of the prize lines.

The dark laughs are consistent, and the parody of middle America's bizarre beauty contest fixation is spiked with some jolting shock tactics - from the nurse-assisted wheelchair dance by the reigning anorexic crown holder to Richards' hilarious (not too mention blasphemous) love song for Jesus - but such blackness never obstructs rooting for Dunst's likeable teen.

If there's a weakness it's that mockumentary doesn't always work, and the film drags on a little too long after a seemingly natural conclusion. Still, an outrageous, deliciously bad-taste classic.

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