Magazine article The Spectator

Hollywood Ignorance

Magazine article The Spectator

Hollywood Ignorance

Article excerpt

The funny thing about all these mock documentaries -The Blair Witch Project, Waiting ftir Guffman, Drop Dead Gorgeous - is that the genre they're mocking - the documentary - barely exists in America. Indeed. I wouldn't mind betting that most of the young movie-goers who made Blair Witch the box-office hit of the summer have never ever sat through a real fulllength documentary. The distinguishing feature of Drop Dead Gorgeous is that its fussy director, Michael Patrick Jann (from MTV), seems never to have sat through one, either. The documentary form seems useful to him mainly as a way of putting him at one remove from the narrative and characters, thereby enabling him to patronise his material more easily.

Most mockumentaries pick targets that are already self-parodies - amateur dramatics (Guffman), political campaigns (Bob Roberts), the rock biz (This is Spinal Tap) - but, even by the form's own standards, Drop Dead's barrel seems excessively wellstocked with fish. Its subject is teen beauty pageants. And, just to make life even easier, Jann sets his competition in Mount Rose, a fictional small town in Minnesota, enabling him to get in some additional sniggers at funny-talking hicks. Between Garrison Keillor and Fargo, Minnesota is beginning to seem a bit over-exposed as an instant comedy playground.

Jann has a good cast - Wild Things' Denise Richards (the next Bond girl) does yet another rich-bitch routine as odds-on favourite Becky; Kirsten Dunst is her main rival, a winsome trailer-park cutie; and Kirstie Alley and Ellen Barkin are their respective moms; oh. and Adam West (from TV's Batman) is in there, too. Jann's writer, Lona Williams, was once second runner-up in a Minnesota beauty pageant, which embittered perspective she's brought to bear on the script. Miss Williams, a producer on The Drew Carey Show, is lousy at character but efficient enough at cranking out sitcom gags and lines in pretty hit-andmiss fashion. Becky, for example, belongs to the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club. Hmm. Congregational women pack heat, so do Baptist women, and Southern Baptist women. But Lutherans? Anyone who's spent five minutes in Minnesota knows Lutheran women must be among the leastlikely gun-owning demographics in America. So the line has a false tinkle: it's a generic rube crack made by showbiz smartasses who can't even be bothered figuring out which bunch of losers they're sneering at. …

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