Click here for IMDB's info on Beautiful

By Sharon Fulton

Miss This America

The creators of "Beautiful" play a very cheap trick. They produce an abhorrent picture, but, at the end, they champion a cause that I support. It makes me look bad when I bash every other aspect of the movie. Oh well. I'm going to anyway.

Beautiful tells the story of a bitch who aspires to become "Miss America Miss". The movie first introduces Mona Hibbard as a little girl in 1986, Illinois. We watch many charming childhood episodes such as young Mona screaming at her mother, her stepfather's drunken attempt to molest Mona in the night, and Mona losing multiple beauty pageants in aborted "material girl" outfits.

Although these painful "painful childhood" scenes attempt to excuse adult Mona's (Minnie Driver) calculating, selfish, and horrible behavior, I could not sympathize. Mona never exhibits any redeeming qualities. I kept hoping she would abandon her goal to win Miss America Miss and devote her energies to becoming a tolerable human being. My intense dislike of Mona is largely due to Ms. Driver's grating performance. I liked Minnie Driver in "Circle of Friends" and "Good Will Hunting", but ever since her acting style has become an assortment of exaggerated facial expressions. Mona is an unlikable character, and Ms. Driver exacerbates the problem.

Young Mona meets Ruby at school. Ruby is a shy girl who lives in Mona's shadow, and she grows into a mousy Joey Lauren Adams. Although Joey Lauren Adams makes the saintly Ruby into a somewhat believable character, I find it painful to watch Ms. Adams play second banana. I remember how wonderful Ms. Adams was in "Chasing Amy", and I wish she could find better roles.

The third major character is Vanessa (Hallie Kate Eisenberg), and, yes, she is Mona's illegitimate child. Miss Eisenberg is the "Pepsi girl", and she screams at the top of her lungs to convey feeling. Throughout the movie, I kept wishing she would lose her voice.

However, Miss America Misses are not allowed to have children, and Mona refuses to lose her chance at the title. Therefore, Ruby pretends to be Vanessa's mother, and Mona plays the child's aunt. Mona continues indulging her ego and her battle to become heralded as the most beautiful woman in America.

Beautiful is Sally Field's first directorial attempt, and she creates a weak film. Sometimes, I felt that the film tries to satirize the beauty pageant world and its heroine, but, most of the time, the film takes its subject matter and Mona seriously. Because it shifts pointlessly from parody to melodrama, it fails to either amuse or stir. The camera shakes in some scenes, and the cinematography is bland. I disliked the costumes too. For a funny movie about beauty pageants, watch "Drop Dead Gorgeous."

The movie has one redeeming feature: the ending. It supports single mothers. However, it sticks the message during the finale, and, now that I think about it, Mona abandons little Vanessa again at the end.

(Note: I found one aspect of this movie consistently funny. "Miss America" is so heavily copyrighted that Mona has to compete for Miss America Miss.)