Stars:  Minnie Driver, Joey Lauren Adams, Hallie Kate Eisenberg

What’s so beautiful about “Beautiful” is how beautifully it depicts beauty pageants as the anachronisms that they are and how ridiculous they have always been.

This tells the story of a little “white trash” girl named Mona whose only escape is her dreams of stardom as the winner of beauty contests. From age ten on or so, that’s all she thinks of, going so far as to support herself by after-school jobs so she can get herself braces and take modeling, dance and singing lessons. She gets neither love nor support from her trashy do-nothing mother and even more pathetic step-father. Then one day she meets and befriends a homely girl at school named Ruby who just happens to be a sewing-whiz – the one talent Mona needs to pull herself ahead, or rather in line with the pack of tiny contest-fiends. From Ruby and her grandmother, she also gets the love and support that has been lacking in her life. They grow together and Mona’s dreams become Ruby’s.

Soon, they are adults. Mona is now played by Minnie Driver (a tad too old, I think, for the part, but she does an exceptionally fine job with it) and Ruby is exquisitely played by Joey Lauren Adams – sympathetic, loving and the best best friend any girl could hope for.

She’s even there to solve the little problem of Mona’s out-of-wedlock baby, pretending to be Vanessa’s (now played by Hallie Kate Eisenberg) mother just so Mona can move up to Miss Illinois and on to the bigger contest that lies ahead.

Mona, meanwhile, has gone from a self-centered child to a hugely shallow, self-centered adult. It’s downright annoying watching her antics as much as it is annoying watching the whole stupidity of a bunch of dumb-acting girls spend every minute of their lives devoted to only one thing – winning a beauty pageant. But as we move further along as a crisis develops affecting Ruby’s presence in Mona’s life, we get to see more clearly why such a silly thing would mean so much to her. But still, you can’t help feeling that if she had applied all that money and energy into something more useful, wouldn’t she still feel better about herself and her circumstances?

Vanessa grows up believing that Mona is her “aunt” and despises her for just about everything. This little girl becomes the key to humanizing Mona.

Lotta says: “Beautiful” is filled with excellent performances from Driver and Adams and Eisenberg (you may remember her from all those Pepsi commercials) is growing into a fine actress. The story is a tough one to take at times due to the stupid subject matter of the contests – all that backstabbing and one-upmanship — you’d like to smack them all. Rated PG-13 for language and adult theme. Worth seeing? Yeah. It’s Sally Field’s directorial debut. She’d want you to see it.