Where we offer you Row Three programming if we owned a Rep Cinema
She Ain’t Pretty She Just Looks That Way.
Drop Dead Gorgeous – 2:00pm
The Queen of Versailles – 5:00pm
Tabloid – 8:00pm
With the internet still abuzz with the train-wreck of cluelessness, the boat-load of petty narcissism and the full blown crazy of chef Amy Bouzaglo, owner of Amy’s Baking Company as featured on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, we offer you a new triple bill at the Row Three Rep. Now Amy, to the best of my knowledge was no former beauty queen, but she seems to exhibit many of the foibles offered in these three films screening today. They involve some pretty, but nutty gals and the crazy hermetically sealed bubbles they build inside their own minds. To further drive home the ‘reality’ of the Bouzaglo imbroglio, the three films are in documentary format. The first one, stretches the notion a bit, being in a faux documentary with the aim satirical goofery, but the other two are shockingly real folks who are still walking the earth involved their curious little lives.
Drop Dead Gorgeous
A game female ensemble and a first time director very nearly pull off this Christopher Guest meets Fargo satire of American beauty contests, and the cut throat politics involved therein. There is a definite charm in Kirsten Dunst’s tap-dancing mortician’s assistant, Amber who dreams blowing the opportunity dry town of Mount Rose, Minnesota by winning the local beauty pageant and she is top billed. But really you come to a film like this for the true crazy, and that is the the over-privileged mother daughter team of Gladys and Becky Leeman. Mom (Kirstie Alley) is an ex-beauty queen who is the chief sponsor of the competition and is completely oblivious to that particular conflict of interest, of putting her Gun totin’ Jesus lovin’ daughter (Denise Richards) into the competition. When accidents start to pile up leaving a number of other contestants dead or injured, the townsfolk starts to suspect that Gladys may not be on the up and up.
While the film plays things a little broader than your Guest styled mock-doc and kind of peters out after events leaves Mount Rose for bigger contests, that doesn’t negate all the kooky characters, including the film debut of Amy Adams as a sweet but slightly sleazy cheerleader, essayed by the film. Welcome support from the always great Alison Janney, as well as Ellen Barkin and Brittany Murphy insure that things are never boring, but ultimately, this is Kirstie Alley’s show and ex-barmaid, ex-Vulcan owns every minute of her screen time as a colourful crazy person.
The Queen of Versailles
Meet Jackie Siegel, ex-computer engineer, ex-beauty queen and now mother of 8 with time-share Magnate David Siegel. Because their 26,000 square foot home is ‘bursting at the seams’ with all the ‘stuff’ that they have, Jackie and David are in the process of building a 90,000 square foot home. This new home would be the largest personal domicile in the United States, being about 10,000 times the size of your average urban apartment unit. Modeled on the famous French palace of Versailles, and to have it’s hundreds of rooms furnished with the best that money can buy, and a staff of over 20 people to help out Jackie, who is a ‘stay at home mom,’ in the middle of all of this, the Great Recession of 2008 hits the United States. Being located in the heart of the hurt, Orlando Florida, David’s business dries up and even more critically, he cannot get the credit to handle all of his resort building projects, let alone the families personal Xanadu which still has millions of dollars in construction to go. What’s an ex-billionaire to do when he is mortgaged up the wazoo with no rainy-day fund? Credit was cheap until it wasn’t and the sky was the limit until it was falling…
Proving that even the rich were strongly affected by the Recession, and more importantly, that husbands should let their wives in on the financial picture to, you know, stop spending when times are tough. But Queen of Versailles goes even further in documenting the Siegel family, who without their staff of 20 house keepers, are incapable of caring for the multitude of pets (may die) or even keeping the place in a state of the barest hygiene. This documentary paints a very scary picture of this particular family and their disconnect from reality (and realty) that walks the line between sympathy and schadenfreude, but certainly leans healthily towards the latter.
Bondage, Beauty Queens, Kidnapping, Mormons and Dog Cloning! Dubbed “A Love Story” by documentary master Errol Morris, it is the strange tale as told Joyce McKinney, the former Miss Wyoming with a way above average I.Q. and a streak of unabashed romantic delusion. She was also the biggest tabloid story in England in 1977 when she tracked down her former lover, escorted him from his Mormon mission to a small secluded cottage and allegedly shackled him to the bed (as one excited Mirror reporter exclaims, “Spread Eagled!”) and had three days of sex to get him free of the hooks and mind control of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints. The story gets stranger, and Morris has nearly all of the original players recount those events of the late 1970s directly to the camera, while he splashes sensational text headlines on the screen and tries to unpack the headspace of McKinney who is still fully in love with her Mormon, even as he has a wife and kids and wants nothing to do with her (or this film.)
Morris gives Joyce enough rope to hang herself, while thematically he dives into themes on the ambiguity and duality of the factual and anecdotal evidence. McKinney remains endearing at a distance. Things meander into the ridiculous with corn-pone expressions such as “You can’t stuff a marshmallow into a parking meter!” Joyce’s particular way of describing non-consensual male sex. The film is righteously entertaining, but has a fair bit of depth. It was woefully ignored at the box office, and critically was often sloughed off as lightweight mocking on the part of the filmmaker. But there is something magnetic at the center of McKinney’s performance, the film grows on, and as the same Mirror Journo exclaims, “There is something in this story for everyone!”