×
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

  • Cannes’ Focus CoPro’ Gives Push for

    Cannes’ Focus CoPro’ Gives Push for First-Time Features

    CANNES–Seven first-feature projects will be pitched to an audience of industry professionals at Focus CoPro’, an event hosted by Cannes’ Short Film Corner that will take place Tuesday May 21 at the Palais des Festivals. The pitching session, which is run in collaboration with Nisi Masa and the Pop Up Film Residency, was introduced last year [...]

  • Cannes: Star Alliance Movies Takes Wide’s

    Cannes: Star Alliance Movies Takes Wide’s ‘Blast’ for China (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES  —  Hong Kong’s Star Alliance Movies has pounced on all rights to China on “Blast,” a race against the clock thriller that marks the first full production from Wide, Loic Magneron’s Paris-based sales-production-distribution company. The deal, made against a background of slowing sales to China, represents the first pre-sale on “Blast,” which is now [...]

  • Brazil’s Cinemascopio, France’s Les Valseurs Team

    Brazil’s Cinemascopio, France’s Les Valseurs Team For Nara Normande, Tião’s ‘The Heron’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES — Recife-based CinemaScópio Produções and Paris’ Les Valseurs have teamed on “A Garça” (The Heron), the feature debut from Brazil’s Nara Normande, co-authored by Tião. Brazilian CinemaScópio is behind Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ Brazilian Western-thriller “Bacurau,” in competition at Cannes. Les Valseurs is also presenting Qiu Yang’s short “She Runs” at Critics’ [...]

  • Portrait of a Young Woman on

    Cannes Film Review: 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire'

    The title of Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” implies that her subversively seductive film will focus on the subject of its titular painting — an 18th-century woman who refuses to pose, in defiance of the arranged marriage into which she’s being forced — when it’s just as much a portrait of the [...]

  • Colin Firth

    Cannes: Colin Firth WWII Drama 'Operation Mincemeat' Sells Out Internationally (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Operation Mincemeat,” a buzzy World War II drama that stars Colin Firth, has sold out international territories at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Warner Bros. has picked up several key markets, as has Central and Eastern European distributor Prorom. The film reunites Firth with John Madden, his “Shakespeare in Love” director. FilmNation Entertainment and Cross [...]

  • Meikincine Scoops Three Titles at Cannes

    Meikincine Scoops Three More Titles at Cannes Film Market (EXCLUSIVE)

    Lucia and Julia Meik’s boutique sales company Meikincine has announced three acquisitions out of this year’s Cannes Film Market: Gaspar Scheuer’s “Delfin”- which world premiered in the Cannes Écrans Juniors Competition; Marcelo Paez Cubells’ “Which”– part of this year’s Blood Window Showcase for films in progress; Sebastián Mega Díaz’s romantic comedy “The Big Love Picture.” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content