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From Under A Rock: Drop Dead Gorgeous

January 1, 2018 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
Drop Dead Gorgeous
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From Under A Rock: Drop Dead Gorgeous  


This week we’re watching a dumb comedy I saw a lot with family when I was in my teen. I think it flies under the radar for reasons we’ll talk about in the first section.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose It’s a Wonderful Life. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Drop Dead Gorgeous.

Drop Dead Gorgeous
Released: July 23rd, 1999
Directed by: Michael Patrick Jann
Written by: Lona Williams
Kirsten Dunst as Amber Atkins
Kirstie Allie as Gladys Leeman
Denise Richards as Becky Ann Leeman
Allison Janney as Loretta
Also Featuring: Ellen Barkin, Brittany Murphy, & Amy Adams

Michael Ornelas: I always enjoyed this movie growing up. It uses the same style of satire that Borat used where it shows unlikable characters in their worst light for laughs (some might call it “shock humor” but I don’t necessarily agree because the intent felt different).

Aaron Hubbard: My immediate impression was that there’s a surprising amount of well-known actors here at pretty early stages of their careers. As for the movie, I still don’t know how I feel about it.
It’s Not That Funny, But…
Michael: It does have plenty of funny ideas, and I’m one who’s willing to appreciate that at face value. But what hooked me more than anything was the plot. Typically, comedy movie plots are simple and much less engaging than the humor. Drop Dead Gorgeous did the opposite for me, and…I didn’t mind it. It’s clear critics did, but I liked the “whodunnit” framed over a beauty pageant.

Aaron: Mystery movies are mostly a dead genre (though Kenneth Branagh tried valiantly this year), so I think there’s a degree of novelty to using it in a comedy. I didn’t care so much about it, but a lot of the deaths and attempted kills were fun and took advantage of the unique situation of the film. It starts with a memorable tractor murder and just gets more ridiculous from there.

Michael: The very end with the swan always stuck out to me. I also liked the camaraderie between all the girls (minus Becky). It actually gave the film a sense of heart that is uncommon for a dumb comedy.
Showcasing Young Talent
Aaron: So my big surprise in this movie was Kirsten Dunst, who was a few years after Jumanji and a few years before Spider-Man. She was quite charming here playing a character that didn’t have as many quirks or jokes as most of the cast. I liked how the plot drove her to have a closer relationship with her mother and that was probably my favorite part of the movie for me.

Michael: Her movie choices have always prevented me from viewing her as a great actress and…I don’t know why. She’s always impressed me when I think about it. She was rock solid in this, and stole the show in Fargo’s second season a couple years back. This movie had a great cast all around. Denise Richards, while not a very good actress, played a part that I fully believed for her. Kirstie Allie as desperate midwestern pageant mom was perfect. Brittany Murphy’s character had some genuine moments, and Amy Adams was…in the movie.

Aaron: Yep. She sure was. But again, it’s an interesting relic in that sense. It’s fun to see people who have now been nominated for Oscars in such a low brow, low budget movie.
Midwestern Flavor
Michael: One of my favorite little things a movie can do is bring the local flavor of its setting to the foreground. The midwest and the south are probably the two regions where it’s most distinct, but it goes a long way in bringing a story to life. I was born in the Chicago area and when I watch this movie, I see my aunts. I see my cousins. I see my childhood friends. Representation is important in film, and whenever I’m feeling nostalgic, I can trust this movie to give me that family feeling.

Aaron: As a Kansas resident, I relate to that. I know seeing movies that accurately represent middle-America has been a priority of mine recently. I loved Hell or High Water in 2016 and Logan Lucky this year. Hollywood has a tendency to overlook middle America nowadays due to political reasons. And while I understand that, I can’t help but resent it a bit.

Michael: It’s refreshing. After I lived in Chicago, I grew up in Austin, TX, and luckily that’s a spot that’s pretty regularly represented in film.

Aaron: This was fine. I enjoyed Dunst and a few others, the setting was fresh and interesting enough, but I’ll probably not rewatch it.


Michael: This movie is better than any critic will admit, even if it’s not as funny as I remember it being. It’s still not great, but if you want to see an interesting premise, and a great, heartful performance by Kirsten Dunst, I recommend it.


Aaron: This was certainly a different sort of movie. Thanks for always expanding my horizons.

Michael: I expected you to hate it, so I’m actually pretty happy with where it landed for you!

What comedies do you like for their story?

Next week:

Aaron: So here’s a movie I’ve been looking to rewatch for a while. This’ll be perfect for our column.
Michael: This is the first of several martial arts films we have on the calendar for 2018 and even though we haven’t really dug into the genre yet, I’m excited as I’ve been watching a lot more of them on my own in the past year or two.

Aaron: This is more about weapon combat than traditional martial arts but I think you’ll love it.

What is your favorite Ang Lee film?

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The final score: review Average
The 411
Drop Dead Gorgeous is not a great movie, but it is an interesting one. The story is actually the most fresh thing about it, but there's some humor and even a bit of heart to it. If you want something different, or to see a bunch of good actresses before they got really famous, this is worth a watch.