A scene from 'Beautiful'
Courtesy Photo
* star 112 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, September 29, 2000
Directed by Sally Field

Starring Minnie Driver, Joey Lauren Adams, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Kathleen Turner, Leslie Stefanson, Bridgette Wilson & Kathleen Robertson

This film is on the Worst of 2000 list.


Wanna see a good beauty pageant movie? Go someplace besides Blockbuster and look for "Smile."

   VIDEO RELEASE: 02.20.2001


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Field directs Driver to a shallow performance as a wannabe beauty queen in sappy, absurd dramedy

By Rob Blackwelder

"Beautiful" is such a sappy, pandering, overly sincere, paint-by-numbers feel-good movie it's almost a surprise Robin Williams doesn't play its central character, an absurdly determined wannabe beauty queen.

OK, so Robin Williams is far too hairy to pass as a beauty contestant and he isn't even female. But that's never stopped him before.

Instead it's Minnie Driver who swallows her pride for the role of this repellantly shallow and insecure outcast from a broken white-trash home, who takes 15 years to learn a trite Sunday school lesson about how there are more important things in life than being pretty.

After spending her entire adult life flunking out of local pageants and not much else (no mention is ever made of the character holding a job), she gets her big chance to represent Illinois at the Miss American Miss pageant.

But, oh no! What if they find out she secretly has a 7-year-old daughter? Being a mother is grounds for beauty pageant disqualification apparently, so the kid (Pepsi shill Hallie Kate Eisenberg) is being raised by Driver's mousy doormat of a best friend (Joey Lauren Adams). Could these people be any more pathetic? Just by default, Eisenberg has more depth than anyone else in the story.

Awash in bogus sentimentality, pained attempts at humor (Miss Texas's talent is bad ventriloquism.) and several more preposterous plot devices, "Beautiful" is the directorial debut of talented but notoriously mawkish actress Sally Field. Therefore, as you can probably imagine, every mushy element of the script is robustly wrung for every last drip of sap.

To that end, Adams -- who plays a nursing home nurse -- is jailed when one of her patients ODs, forcing Driver to risk exposure by taking her daughter to the big pageant. The two fight, then bond, before the insultingly contrived climax involving the kid, a live TV broadcast with a soundproof booth and a former pageant rival who has become a reporter for a tabloid entertainment show. (Meanwhile, Adams' murder charges are conveniently resolved off-screen.)

"Beautiful" pays lip service to the politically correct concept that objectifying women in beauty contests is bad (and that's about as deep as it gets), but Field ducks out on addressing the matter directly. Eating disorders, plastic surgery and other indignities of the beauty myth aren't even hinted at. Opening the film to that kind of issue would require either a wicked sense of humor or characters that weren't so slight.

The only redeemable moments in this movie are part of a prologue that takes place in 1986, when Driver's character is played by Colleen Rennison, a young actress far more convincing in her insecurity and innocent ambition than Driver is when the character has become a self-centered adult who hasn't outgrown such superficial aspirations.

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