×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Beautiful

"Beautiful," Sally Field's decidedly unexciting feature directorial debut, aims to say something relevant about American society's preoccupation with appearances at the expense of such qualities as inner beauty and moral integrity. Minnie Driver plays a small-town Illinois girl whose sole ambition in life is to win the Miss America contest. There's no particular reason to see this disappointingly trivial picture on the bigscreen; in scale, production quality and message, it's perfect material for the Lifetime channel.

With:
Mona Hibbard - Minnie Driver Ruby - Joey Lauren Adams Vanessa - Hallie Kate Eisenberg Verna Chickle - Kathleen Turner Joyce Parkins - Leslie Stefanson Lorna, Miss Texas - Bridgette Wilson Wanda Love, Miss Tennessee - Kathleen Robertson

Beautiful,” Sally Field’s decidedly unexciting feature directorial debut, aims to say something relevant about American society’s preoccupation with appearances at the expense of such qualities as inner beauty and moral integrity. Minnie Driver plays a small-town Illinois girl whose sole ambition in life is to win the Miss America contest. There’s no particular reason to see this disappointingly trivial picture on the bigscreen; in scale, production quality and message, it’s perfect material for the Lifetime channel.

Beauty contests are a natural for nasty satire, but Fields, working with a screenplay credited to Jon Bernstein, instead propounds a philosophy similar to that of “Forrest Gump” (in which she played the central character’s mother): Listen to your heart and be true to yourself; whether you’re smart or stupid, good or bad, shouldn’t matter much.

Yarn begins in 1986 in Naperville, Ill., at a dental clinic, where young Mona flaunts her braces to the camera. Going from one minor contest to another, often sponsored by greedy beauty pageant expert Verna Chickle (an utterly wasted Kathleen Turner), Mona never wins, but her determination doesn’t wane. Lack of rapport with her working-class mom and stepfather makes her even more committed to her goal. Narrative suggests that Mona’s merciless zeal stems from an unglamorous and unloved childhood.

Second act jumps to 1999 and finds Mona just as unwilling to give in, climbing her way up the pageant ladder on sheer will and merciless hunger for victory. Her best friend from childhood, Ruby (Joey Lauren Adams), shows the patience of a saint in helping Mona pursue her ambition. When Mona gets pregnant and gives birth to Vanessa (Hallie Kate Eisenberg), Ruby pretends to be the child’s mom. Problem is, Vanessa looks just like Mona, and everyone recognizes the resemblance.

Mona has been the name of numerous “bad” protagonists in movies, from Robert Altman’s “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” to Nick Gomez’s “Drowning Mona.” In Field’s pic, Mona is yet another uniquely American monster, a poor cousin to the TV weatherwoman played by Nicole Kidman in Gus Van Sant’s “To Die For” — a far superior satire about the pursuit of fame at all costs (where it was mean-spirited, jaunty, bitchy, brisk and fun, Field’s film is bland, dull and overly long).

But in an interesting echo of the earlier film, the inquiring journalist in “Beautiful” is a woman (Leslie Stefanson) who hopes that her supposedly scandalous reports about Mona’s family secret will catch the attention of Tom Brokaw and catapult her to national stardom.

Pic’s last reel rehashes the familiar behind-the-scenes elements of a beauty pageant and all its dreary acts, from bathing-suit parade to talent contest. The implausible ending recalls a typical “Oprah” show.

Vacillating between comedy and family melodrama, the film never finds the right tone for its few mild jokes or life lessons. “Beautiful” is the kind of populist fairy tale in which the heroine gets to repent for her sin — and be cheered by feminists for proving that mothers (even bad ones) should be eligible to participate in beauty contests.

Beautiful

Production: A Destination Films presentation, in association with Flashpoint and Prosperity Pictures, of a 2 Drivers/Fogwood Films production. Produced by John Bertolli, B.J. Rack. Executive producers, Dick Vane, Kate Driver, Wendy Japhet, Barry London, Brent Baum, Steve Stabler, Marty Fink, David Forrest, Beau Rogers. Co-producers, Mark Morgan, Jon Bernstein, Jade Ramsey. Directed by Sally Field. Screenplay, Jon Bernstein.

Crew: Camera (color), Robert Yeoman; editor, Debra Neil-Fischer; music, John Frizzell; production designer, Charles Breen; art director, Leslie Thomas; set decorator, Jeffrey Kushon; costume designer, Chrisi Karvonides-Dushenko; sound (Dolby/SDDS), Pawel Wdowczak; assistant director, John Nelson; casting, Amanda Mackey Johnson, Cathy Sandrich. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentation), Sept. 10, 2000. Running time: 112 MIN.

With: Mona Hibbard - Minnie Driver Ruby - Joey Lauren Adams Vanessa - Hallie Kate Eisenberg Verna Chickle - Kathleen Turner Joyce Parkins - Leslie Stefanson Lorna, Miss Texas - Bridgette Wilson Wanda Love, Miss Tennessee - Kathleen Robertson

More Film

  • 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Weaves Inclusive

    The Secret Power of 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Is Inclusion

    In a year that gave us films like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” this weekend’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” delivers one more home run for underrepresented groups in media in 2018. An animated film that takes advantage of Sony’s piece of the Marvel pie, “Spider-Verse” not only puts a mixed-race, middle-class teenager in the [...]

  • Jeff BridgesJeff Bridges, who stars in

    Jeff Bridges to Receive Cecil B. DeMille Award at 2019 Golden Globes

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced that Jeff Bridges will receive the Cecil B. DeMille award at the 76th Golden Globes on Jan. 6, 2019. Bridges has starred in films like “The Big Lebowski,” “Crazy Heart,” “True Grit,” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” “The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is delighted to bestow the 2019 [...]

  • Charlotte Rampling Euphoria

    Berlin Film Festival: Charlotte Rampling to Receive Honorary Golden Bear

    Oscar-nominated actress Charlotte Rampling, whose career has spanned more than 100 film and television roles, will be honored with a special Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. The fest will also pay homage to Rampling by screening a selection of her work, including Sidney Lumet’s “The Verdict” (1982), Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool” (2003) [...]

  • The Sisters Brothers

    France's Lumieres Awards Unveil Nominations

    Jacques Audiard’s “The Sisters Brothers” has been nominated for best film and director at the 24th Lumieres Awards, France’s equivalent of the Golden Globes. The Western starring Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly and Jake Gyllenhaal world-premiered at Venice Film Festival, where it earned Audiard a best director award. Produced by Paris-based company Why Not, “The [...]

  • CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We

    CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We Pictures

    Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has signed with We Pictures, the production and distribution company founded by Hong Kong-born director and producer Peter Chan Ho-sun. It aims to boost the company’s footprint both in China and abroad. Within China, CAA China will help We Pictures to develop new business partnerships and find new sources of investment [...]

  • Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Receive

    'Carol' Producers Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Be Honored by BAFTA

    Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley, the producers of such films as “Carol,” “Their Finest” and the recent “Colette” starring Keira Knightley, will receive the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award at the BAFTA Film Awards. The prolific pair run Number 9 Films and have a long list of credits. They will pick up their accolade at [...]

  • BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

    Korea Box Office: 'Rhapsody' Reclaims Top Spot, Beats ‘Spider-Verse’

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” reclaimed top place at the South Korean box office, overtaking “Default,” after spending two weekends in second place. The Fox release earned $4.38 million from 554,000 admissions for a total of $61.0 million from 7.94 million admissions. In its seventh weekend of release “Rhapsody” accounted for 27% of the weekend box office. CJ [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content