Fields’ directorial debut: ‘Beautiful’ far from gorgeous

By on April 26, 2001

Sally Field’s directorial debut exposes the not-so-attractive aspects of beauty pageants in “Beautiful.” Minnie Driver stars as the pageant-obsessed Mona Hubbard, who goes beyond the limits to attain a “Miss America” crown.
As a child, Mona (Colleen Rennisson) escapes her dysfunctional home and turns her attention to the world and lifestyle of the beauty pageant model. She saves her money to fix her teeth and attends charm school. She befriends Ruby (Joey Lauren Adams), a sweet girl that designs costumes for her. Together the girls work to make Mona a young star.
Once Mona becomes an adult (Minnie Driver), her obsession grows to a much more compulsive level. She has a baby out of wedlock and allows her childhood friend Ruby to take on a parental position of watching over her child as mother. She asks Ruby to care for her child because contestants are disqualified if they have children.
Mona pretends that she is the baby’s aunt while Ruby acts as the child’s mother. The spunky little girl is played by the Pepsi spokes-girl, Hallie Kate Eisenberg. When Ruby is arrested for a crime that she did not commit, Mona is forced to take care of her daughter. In a rather charming conclusion, Mona finally takes responsibility for her daughter and reveals the truth to both her child and the pageant world.
“Beautiful” is obviously not an award winner, but is definitely worth the trip and expense to rent. Unlike her past roles co-starring with the X-Files’ David Duchovney in “Return to Me” and 1997’s multiple award-winning “Good Will Hunting,” Driver’s role in “Beautiful” is irritating and far from likeable. Her arrogant persona and the vanity within the pageant world are mocked comedically.
Within the comedy, however, lies a deep message about society and the concept of narcissism. Sure, it is infuriating to watch Driver simply hand over her parental responsibility to a friend, more concerned about her looks than her daughter. Ultimately, it is the little girl that winds up saving her from herself, teaching her to care for someone other than herself.
Grade: B-


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