Johanna Brady stars as a former beauty queen in comic-drama that comes up shy

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An ex-pageant queen rediscovers her self-worth in "Miss Arizona," a scattershot comic drama that doesn't earn its theme of empowerment.  

Johanna Brady (TV's "Quantico") is Rose, a former Miss Arizona who now lives in Los Angeles with an inattentive husband who keeps a tight lid on her finances and a 10-year-old son who's becoming too cool for her. She spends her days reading magazines and wondering if her best years have passed her by. 

She gets a call to fill in at a women's shelter teaching life lessons, and she breaks out her old presentation and spreads some Vaseline on her teeth. But her audience — which includes Leslie (Robyn Lively), Maybelle (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) and Jasmine (Shoniqua Shandai), all dealing with their own issues — is less than receptive to her canned message.

She can help them in other ways. She winds up giving the women a ride, which turns into a zany all-night adventure through L.A. "Miss Arizona" culminates in a trip to a West Hollywood drag bar, where Rose finds herself back in pageant mode, competing against a different type of beauty queen. 

"Miss Arizona" depends on the group of women bonding, but writer-director Autumn McAlpin's script doesn't believably sell the situations that lead to their connection. Leslie is fighting to get her kids back from her abusive ex-, a chain of events that is contrived in its execution.

Brady, for her part, stands out by balancing her sunshiny presence with a core vulnerability. The film has a strong #girlpower soundtrack that includes Lorde, Shania Twain and Kacey Musgraves. But as far as pageant material goes, "Miss Arizona" misses the cut. 

'Miss Arizona'

GRADE: C

Not rated: Language

Running time: 93 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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