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"Beautiful" asks whether or not it is OK to continue having beauty pageants, and yet drop the requirement that the participants have refrained from motherhood, thereby straying from the pageants' vestal virgin ceremony origins. "Beautiful" answers in the affirmative, since that way pageants may yet have value in the personal development and empowerment of young women. If they are done with a little common sense, pageants need not be about objectifying or patronizing women
Apparently, that view was too politically incorrect for most big media critics. How would they have reviewed "Beautiful," had it been directed by Robert Altman instead of Sally Field?
Mona (Driver, who co-produced with her sister Kate) is a white trash young woman desperately attempting to achieve her life-long desire of becoming a beauty contestant winner of the Miss America pageant and spends the entire length of her life (and the film) in doggedly determined to do just that.
Unfortunately during her quest she gets pregnant and for reasons never fully explained (except the given that she is extremely selfish) has the child raised by her long-suffering best friend, Ruby (Adams), a nurse in an old folks' home, who stands by Mona through thick and thin. Gradually little Vanessa (Eisenberg, the moppet from those Pepsi commercials), begins to put two and two together and when Ruby is suddenly thrown in jail (for murder! Yes the plotting is ridiculous; seems one of her charges was saving up on her daily meds and finally overdosed unbeknownst to Ruby) Mona is faced with her greatest challenge: facing her daughter.
The film has not one shred of grace or subtlety. For example, with Vanessa as her new hurdle to overcome, what does Mona do. Get a lawyer, get a job, feed the tyke? No. She gets a camera and has the girl take candids of her for the upcoming big event and in one of the many cringe worthy moments finds herself assisting a pregnant woman's delivery in a supermarket, singing 'Wind Beneath My Wings' (!) The tone of the character is so mean-spirited that ultimately you don't care one iota if she succeeds in becoming a winner (she is so obsessed with this that nothing else matters in her life) and I actually loathed her for her displays of self-absorption and greed.
It was sickening and by the film's outrageous conclusion that Mona sees the errors of her way totally rings false and feels superfluous to the rest of the film.
Field, who obviously is one of our most talented actresses, should deserve better projects and one can only hope she will. As for Driver, another equally gifted actress, she had better get it into her head that there is no audience for a character that has no scruples, heart or affection for another character. If this was meant to be a black comedy then it completely misses the mark altogether.
Throughout the story, I found myself wondering whether I should sympathise with Mona, a woman with such a desire to win that she selfishly sabotages fellow contestants and locks her own daughter out of her life. On the other hand, I was able to relate to the story of a woman who strove to be the best only to falter and be dragged down by peers. In a sense, Mona is to be applauded for her determination to shine through a life of failure and loneliness - a true testament to the feats that can be achieved though hard work. Naturally, giving up her child to selfishly pursue a vain dream is almost despicable but it makes the triumphant ending ever so much more inspiring, that this confused human being triumphs not only over adversity to be crowned Miss American Miss, but more importantly, that she conquers her own self-centred frailties to realise the joy to be found in loving the beautiful gift of life she already possesses.
As a female french writer, Simone de Beauvoir, said that "women don't birth but become so". We see that there: all the women are suffering from child to teen, adult and even third age! Their pain is closely linked with their beauty and their parents. In a way, this movie asks the following question: what is it to be a woman in America?
For the answer, you can count on a truly excellent cast: the kids are very touching and they can be proud to have such a milestone at their age. Minnie Driver really carries the story on her shoulders. For me, she was a future leading actress but she seems to have disappeared since. It's a pity.
I don't really understand how such a movie can be award-less ? So, if you find it, take the course!
I did not think Beautiful was bad so much as unstructured. One minute the audience was watching a rather serious drama, the next almost a spoof on pageants. I really don't think the whole pageant movie thing has become overdone yet but most movies about this subject, in my opinion, just aren't very good. Beautiful has some nice moments but by and large it's all over the place as far as genres go (drama, comedy, satire). I think it really should have stayed just a drama because the plot was interesting and the cast was good.
As far as Driver's performance goes, she was convincing. The problem is that so much of what takes place is such a satire that it's almost impossible to take the serious moments seriously. The character of Mona also changes so abruptly that it is impossible not to be skeptical. Instead of so much silly satire it would have been nice if more character development of Mona had gone on. I could buy the fact that she grew and matured but more time was needed in the movie to show her transition. We don't get to see enough character development of anyone and to much time is wasted on things that have no relevance to the plot such as the scheming reporter who wants to ruin Mona's reputation. What was the point with that? It did not even fit into the storyline.
The best aspect of this movie was the character of Vanessa who was played not just well, but with excellence. I really enjoyed her scenes with Mona and actually really enjoyed a rare few moments of this movie that had a whole lot of potential (it's nowhere near as Bad as many critic reviews say in my opinion and at least they didn't throw in an unconvincing romance and make the whole thing a romantic comedy to boot.) But it's like the movie gave up and decided it did not need to make a strong effort on structure and character development or something.
If a bit more effort had gone into dialog, if Mona's character had been a bit more developed, if some of the silly stuff had been dropped and if Mona's and Vanessa's relationship had unfolded a bit more realistically this movie would have been quite something. As it stands it's about average.
In this film, Driver plays a Beauty Pageant conetstent that is driven (no pun intended) to win at all costs, even to the extent of lying about her own life and actively sabotaging the other contestants. It is difficult to talk about this film without giving away some of the surprises, so I will just have to say that this movie is entertaining even if it does end up ultimately being a "chick flick", and it might make you think about priorities in your life. 6/10
Either of these elements could have worked alone, but together they are incongruous. The satire trivializes the human-interest story, and the human-interest story weighs down the comedy. Field's direction, as has been recently true of her acting roles, is best suited for the human-interest angle. In this film, that is the strongest element. Despite my being cynical about how predictable and schmaltzy this story was, I still couldn't help being choked up at the end, sappy as it was. This is to Field's credit as a dramatic director. However, her attempt to fuse the two discordant elements is misguided and it detracts from the overall entertainment value of the film.
The acting is generally good. Minnie Driver is a far better dramatic actor than she is a comedian and that is reflected in this film. In the satirical comedy scenes, her acting is very forced and artificial. In the serious dramatic scenes with Mona's mother and daughter, she is compelling and believable. Joey Lauren Adams gives a consistently excellent performance as Mona's best friend and Vanessa's surrogate mother. Adams is lovable, steady and kind, and she effuses sincerity. This film is a showcase for Hallie Kate Eisenberg, the Media's latest child phenom. A favorite in commercials and on the Jay Leno show, Eisenberg shows in this film that she can really act, delivering an astonishing performance as Mona's pouty but perceptive child (`I'm seven, I'm not stupid!').
This is a good film for women. The comedy is not that funny, but the mother-daughter angle will be good for a Kleenex or two. I rated it a 7/10, including a one-point bonus for the schmaltzy but effective ending. Guys bring a copy of Sports Illustrated and a flashlight.
Minnie Driver does a beautiful job in this movie playing Mona, the beauty pagaent contestant, whose hiding the fact that she has a kid by her best friend,Joey Lauren Adams, taking over the title of her mom.
I think it's a powerful story, as well as a great message that moms should be able to compete in beauty pageants. It makes me mad to know that this movie got such horrible critic reviews and user reviews. It may not be as well-written of a story like Good Will Hunting, but it's a great movie to watch with your girlfriends.
Minnie Driver is absolutely hateable as the self-absorbed beauty queen wanna-be. You never quite feel sorry for her. But Hallie Kate Eisenberg twists at our heart strings, while still hawking Pepsi(look in the background of almost every scene- it's Pepsi!).
This is a funny look at the world of beauty pagents and heart tugging look at the relationships between mothers and daughters and best friends. A must see!