Volume 94, Issue 20
Wednesday, October 4, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Actually, it's ugly
Photo by Suzanne Hoover
IF ONLY THERE WAS A LEADING MAN IN THIS MOVIE. minnine Driver contemplates hjer good looks as a beauty pageant contestant in Sally Field's directorial debut Beautiful.
Starring: Minnie Driver, Joey Lauren Adams, Leslie Stefanson
Directed By: Sally Field
By Sherri Wood
If you've ever seen a Sally Field film, you know the basic ingredients: sentimental melodrama and a happy ending.
Beautiful, Field's directorial debut, doesn't stray far from this all-too-familiar path. With a cast of well-known names (Minnie Driver, Kathleen Turner, Joey Lauren Adams) and a rags-to-riches storyline, Beautiful could have been the feel-good movie of the year. However, the feeble, predictable script and bizarre plot twists, fail to deliver that post-movie warmth Forrest Gump left you with.
Beautiful is a comedy/drama with a touch of satire. It's a story about the life of Mona Hibbard (Minnie Driver), a girl who spends her life desperately trying to succeed in the world of beauty pageants. She grows up in a broken home with an alcoholic mother and a vulgar stepfather and enters all the local pageants in an attempt to discover beauty and recognition.
She meets Ruby (Joey Lauren Adams), also an outcast at school, who becomes devoted to helping Mona achieve her pageant goals. Ten years later, Mona and Ruby stay friends and are still pageant driven. Mona gets crowned Miss Illinois, but vows not to stop until she gets the Miss America title. All the while, Ruby continues to devote her life to mothering Mona in her journey.
Mona's success seems to be progressing fairly well until she gets pregnant and is convinced her career is over (the Miss America pageant doesn't allow mothers to compete). The problem is solved when Ruby agrees to raise the child (Hallie Kate Eisenberg) as her own so that Mona doesn't have to give up her tiara-filled dreams.
The culture of the beauty pageant has long been a comedic target in Hollywood and certainly isn't anything new. Field is successful in her satirical take on pageants, which is funny. It's also sadly real, as we get a glimpse of the lives of young women who use the pageants to, in the words of Miss Texas (Kathleen Robertson) to "crack the white trash code."
The main character, Mona and her hardships, are intended to be a sad tale. The audience is supposed to sympathize with her. The problem is, she's too horrible to even remotely like.
The inevitable transition to "nice girl" is hard to swallow. It isn't Minnie Driver's fault, her acting has to be commended as she rendered the character believable, even if the plot wasn't.
The ridiculous subplots are also problematic. There's a former pageant contestant out to get revenge on Mona. There's also a money-hungry pageant leader and etiquette teacher (Kathleen Turner) who seems to wander in and out of the movie with no clear purpose. The most bizarre subplot of all has to be Ruby ending up in jail, accused of murdering an elderly lady in the nursing home where she works. It seems an extreme way to get Ruby out of the picture, so that Mona and her daughter can develop their relationship. As with the others, this subplot is choppy, vague and devoid of any connection to the main plot.
Everything is quickly thrown together into a neat little package ending, which painfully attempts to jerk some tears. Although it's not quite Forrest Gump, Sally Field has successfully played it safe with her directorial debut. If you feel like a cute, sappy movie with a few laughs, Beautiful may be just the thing, but if you're left strangely unsatisfied, don't say you weren't warned.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000