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

Beautiful is an enjoyable chick flick with some genuinely funny moments.

Mona Hibbard (Minnie Driver) grew up in a house with a drunk mother and a loser step-father. It is no surprise that she grows up a fighter and a bit selfish. To escape her real world and gain love and acceptance, she becomes obsessed with winning beauty pageants. Mona has no luck until she meets Ruby, a shy and quiet girl who helps her sew dresses and act as moral support. The two grow closer over the years and eventually become roommates as adults as Mona tries to win the Miss Illinois pageant. Unfortunately along the way, Mona becomes pregnant and has a baby girl named Vanessa (Hallie Kate Eisenberg aka Pepsi Kid). However, you can’t be Miss America Miss if you have children, so Ruby agrees to raise Vanessa as her own daughter while Mona continues her quest.

When Vanessa is seven, a tragic (and bizarre) event happens causing Roby to be thrown in jail. Vanessa and Mona are suddenly thrown together without the steady presence they have grown to rely on. The two must come to know each other better and discover a relationship with each other. Has the one thing Mona has been looking for all her life been right in front of her all along? That is the question as Mona and Vanessa head to the Miss America Miss pageant for the big finale.

This film is the first feature directing job for Sally Field.

What Worked:
Beauty pageants are always ripe for satire and this film is at its funniest when it makes fun of them. “Beautiful” does a great job of depicting the cat fights and competition between these ruthless women. It is real fun to watch.

The performances in the film are good. Hallie Kate Eisenburg is her usual cute self. She pretty much steals the scenes she’s in and does a good job switching between loving daughter and brat. Minnie Driver also does a great job convincing us that she not only has an American accent but that she’s obsessed with the world of beauty pageants. Her cutthroat attitude and pranks are some of the highlights of the film. Kathleen Turner also stole the show as pageant instructor Verna Chickle. She does a great job playing the vain, and money grubbing, ex-beauty queen.

But let me be honest – this is a chick flick and there was only so much enjoyment I was going to get out of it. I’ve been known to say that if it doesn’t have an explosion in it, it’s not a real movie. (Come to think of it, one contestant was set on fire, so that was cool.) But I did find Beautiful to be a funny and enjoyable film.

What Didn’t Work:
Unfortunately, Mona was a selfish and whiny character. If she weren’t, there would be no story. But at the same time, I found myself disliking her throughout the story. Her constant “Me, Me, Me” attitude made her hard to tolerate. So, when she finally decided to love her daughter at the flip of a switch, it made it a little hard to swallow. It’s hard to take Mona as a motherly type when she fought with the kid during the previous two hours.

The final message was also a bit confusing. The whole movie seemed to build up to the point that the thing you’re looking for most in your life can be right in front of you without realizing it. However, at the very end, it seemed to switch to a bash against beauty pageants for not allowing single parents to compete. In fact, that message seemed to be jammed down your throat in a forceful manner. It was an odd switching of gears.

I also found some of the plot devices, like Ruby going to jail, to be a bit too outrageous. That simply wouldn’t happen like that in real life. But I guess that’s not the point of the film. After all, other parts of the film are over the top and they worked OK.