Mona (Colleen Rennison) is a 12-year-old who wants to be a beauty queen. And that's all she wants. She earns the money to fix her teeth and pay for pageant classes. She finds a friend, Ruby (Jacqueline Steiger), who can make costumes. Mona grows up (and becomes Minnie Driver). And the grown-up Ruby (Joey Lauren Adams) is devoted to her so much so that when Mona inconveniently gets pregnant, Ruby solves the problem: Mothers can't enter beauty contests.
Seven years later, Ruby is acting as Vanessa's (Hallie Kate Eisenberg) mother and looking after the single-minded Mona. Mona qualifies for the Miss America Miss finals. Then an elderly patient commits suicide at the nursing home where Ruby works. Ruby is accused. Who will look after Vanessa? Who will look after Mona? Mona and Vanessa head for the contest and, miracle of miracles, Mona actually starts thinking about her daughter.
Sally Field makes her directorial debut with BEAUTIFUL. The odd family she has created in this comedy-drama consists of Driver as the self-centered Mona, Adams as the self-sacrificing Ruby, and eight-year-old Eisenberg--taking a break from Pepsi advertisements--as the most sensible and adult of the three.