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movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Beautiful

Starring: Minnie Driver, Joey Lauren Adams
Director: Sally Field
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: September 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Jordan Lund, Ali Landry, Kathleen Turner, Michael McKean, Kathleen Robertson, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen

Review by Steve Rhodes
½ star out of 4

BEAUTIFUL isn't. A lifeless, mean-spirited film, it arrives DOA at your local theater today. Advertised as a comedy, the picture, thanks to Sally's Field's inept direction and Jon Bernstein's dull script, is, instead, a depressing drama.

With beauty pageants as its subject, BEAUTIFUL should have been an easy success. Is there anything easier to satirize than beauty pageants? Last year's marvelously funny DROP DEAD GORGEOUS showed what is possible. Even if BEAUTIFUL can't rise to that level, does it have to be so painful to watch? Every performance is gratingly awful, and all the roles are badly miscast.

Attractive Minnie Driver, as Mona Hibbard, the story's protagonist, doesn't have the body for a beauty pageant winner. Her head and her bones are too large, and her movements are too awkward. She's a terrific actress, but even she can't pull this one off, especially given how badly and unsympathetically her part is written.

To give you an idea of just how ugly BEAUTIFUL can be, one of the key subplots concerns Mona's disowning her own daughter, Vanessa. It seems that you can't be Miss American Miss if you have children. When Mona, who likes to sleep her way to victory, comes up pregnant, she keeps the baby but tries to claim that she is the child of her friend Ruby (Joey Lauren Adams). Vanessa is played cloyingly by Hallie Kate Eisenberg (PAULIE).

Incidents in BEAUTIFUL will more likely have you going "yuck" than laughing. When the teenaged Mona is starting off in the beauty world, she sleeps with a whistle. At night, as she cuddles with her plush toy in bed, she has her whistle at the ready in order to ward off her lecherous father. At least it works so that we don't witness child abuse.

Since the teenaged Mona isn't even finishing in "the top 20" of contests that don't seem to have more than a dozen entrants, she hires a beauty consultant. This consultant is played by none other than Kathleen Turner (BABY GENIUSES), which again proves the rule that I've had for the past decade. Any movie willing to have Kathleen Turner in it is bound to be a stinker. Yes, she was once a good actress. The operative word in that last sentence is "was."

BEAUTIFUL should have been released as a TV movie. If so, it would have been a decidedly below average TV movie. Actually, were it not for Sally Field and Minnie Driver being associated with the production, it would never have been released in any venue.

BEAUTIFUL runs a long 1:52. It is rated PG-13 for language and thematic elements. Although it would be acceptable for kids 11 and up, I would not recommend this to anyone of any age.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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