Written and directed by Nicholas Goodwin, Beauty Queen is a 19-minute short film starring Christina Goursky as Christina, a seemingly insecure young woman who follows up a class conversation about whether it's better to be pretty than smart by looking for something that will make her feel beautiful.
That something arrives in the form of Sebastian (James Jelkin), whose presence here as a sort of backroom photographer who aims to make young girls feel about themselves how they want to feel about themselves is filled with moments of anxiety and dread that are only partially leaned into in this intelligent and thought-provoking short that also stars indie regular Timothy J. Cox as Christina's father, David, who helps to serve as his daughter's moral compass as she finds herself inching toward peril before stumbling back toward clarity about who she is and who she really wants to be.
Goursky's a true gem here, giving a performance that is both intelligent and beautiful and vulnerably embodying the internal insecurities of a young woman who is intelligent, and knows it, and pretty, and knows it, but who doesn't really quite trust who she is enough as evidenced by her searching to be beautiful and, as well, her insecurities about possibly attending Sarah Lawrence College.
Timothy J. Cox gives his usual dependable performance, while James Jelkin is appropriately smarmy with just the right dose of humanity as Sebastian.
Beauty Queen is an enjoyable, meaningful film only modestly hindered by its somewhat muddy audio mix yet benefiting greatly from Marcus Johnson's intimate, occasionally uncomfortable lensing.
You can watch Beauty Queen for yourself directly above this review.