Drop Dead Gorgeous

Drop Dead Gorgeous Information

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a 1999 American dark comedy film directed by Michael Patrick Jann and starring Kirstie Alley, Ellen Barkin, Allison Janney, 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 fictional town of Mount Rose, Minnesota. The film is also the feature film debut of Academy Award-nominated actress Amy Adams.


In 1995, the small and staunchly conservative town of Mount Rose, Minnesota is preparing for its annual beauty pageant. Amber Atkins (Kirsten Dunst) 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 (Allison Janney). Amber works as a beautician at the local funeral home, and as a dishwasher at her school. She is in stark contrast to Rebecca Leeman (Denise Richards), the daughter of the richest man in town, and to Gladys Leeman (Kirstie Alley). Mrs. Leeman is 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 events leading up to the pageant. There are dancing lessons, and individual interviews where the girls answer such revealing questions as "If you could be any tree in the forest, what tree would you be?".

Many odd events occur around town during the run-up to the pageant. One contestant, 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 in an explosion at their mobile home. Annette lands on a neighbor's lawn 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 and rendering her deaf. Janelle's talent in the pageant was to do an interpretive dance with sign language.

At the pageant, Amber's tap costume goes missing. Another contestant decides to drop out of the contest, and gives her own 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 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, promiscuous, but kind-hearted cheerleader for the Mount Rose Muskies, coming in third. However, during the victory parade the next day, Rebecca is riding in an elaborate swan float and is killed in a freak accident. 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. She is 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. Amber didn't get food poisoning because her mom always said, "Never eat anything that carries its house around with it. Who knows the last time it's 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 violently wreck the forecourt of the Sarah Rose Cosmetics building, Amber simply sighs and gets back onto the girls' chartered bus.

A few years later, second runner-up Leslie went to beauty school, 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 lyme disease from a deer tick bite, leaving his mentally-disabled little brother Hank their hardware store. After being runner-up in a prison beauty pageant, Gladys escapes from prison and is sniping from the top of a Mount Rose supermarket. 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 mike 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.


  • Kirsten Dunst - Amber Atkins
  • Ellen Barkin - Annette Atkins
  • Allison Janney - Loretta
  • Denise Richards - Rebecca Ann Leeman
  • Kirstie Alley - Gladys Leeman
  • Sam McMurray - Lester Leeman
  • Mindy Sterling - Iris Clark
  • Amy Adams - Leslie Miller
  • Brittany Murphy - Lisa Swenson
  • Alexandra Holden - Mary Johanson
  • Lona Williams - Jean Kangas
  • Mike McShane - Harold Vilmes
  • Patti Yasutake - Mrs. Howard
  • Seiko Matsuda - Tina/Seiko Howard
  • Will Sasso - Hank Vilmes
  • Adam West - as Himself
  • Amanda Detmer - Miss Minneapolis
  • Samantha Harris - Miss Burnsville
  • Nora Dunn - Colleen Douglas
  • Mo Gaffney - Terry Macy
  • Thomas Lennon - Documentarian
  • Shannon Nelson - Tess Weinhaus
  • Tara Redepenning - Molly Howard
  • Laurie Sinclair - Michelle Johnson
  • Sarah Stewart - Jenelle Betz
  • Brooke Elise - BushmanTammy Curry
  • Casey Garven - Brett Clemens
  • Mary Gillis - Chloris Klinghagen
  • Tom Gilshannon - Lars Larson
  • Kristin Rudrüd - Connie Rudrüd
  • Claudia Wilkens - Iona Hildebrandt
  • Dale Dunham - Mayor of Mount Rose
  • Richard Narita - Mr. Howard
  • Matt Malloy - John Dough


The movie is set in the fictional town of Mount Rose, Minnesota. The accents portrayed in the movie are that of the North Central American dialect found in the Midwest, notably Minnesota.

The name of the town "Mount Rose" is a play on the Minnesota town Rosemount. The film was shot throughout the Carver County area, mainly in Waconia, Minnesota, although names of real Minnesota communities were shown on the sashes of contestants later in the movie. There is a Minnesota town named Montrose.

News reporter Diane Sawyer is mentioned throughout the film as Kirsten Dunst's character Amber Atkins' 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. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 45% based on 65 reviews. Metacritic gives the film 28% based on reviews from 28 critics, indicating generally unfavorable reviews. Many critics liked the modern interpretation of the pageant world although just as many people disliked the film as a whole. Actress Amy Adams was also praised for her performance, as well as actress Denise Richards. Roger Ebert liked the idea of the film but says the script failed to translate into screenplay and that is never quite funny enough, due to subtle miscalculations of production and performance the comedy doesn't work.

The film has somewhat improved with time and is now regarded as a cult film. 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.


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