‘Nightmare Pageant Moms’ (2023) Ending, Explained: Was Adeline Successful In Making Her Plans Work?

Movies such as Nightmare Pageant Moms are made with good intentions, aiming to give the audience a full view of what happens behind-the-scenes of this so-called competition. This movie, directed by Linden Ashby, begins with the murder of a fellow contestant carried out by the mother of another contestant amidst the upcoming Atlanta mother-daughter pageant, which is a big deal amongst the rich and the privileged.

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Spoilers Ahead


Emilia And Sophie Need Money

Not-so-rich mother-daughter Emilia and Sophie have a lot of expenses coming up in the form of Emilia’s very own spa repairs and paying for Sophie’s literary program in London. They signed up for a mother-daughter pageant because the prize money will cover their expenses. It is one of the viable options available to them. One would assume people participating in a pageant are full of themselves but Emilia and Sophie come across genuine people who put on no airs about their money and family legacy, or lack thereof.

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Once they compete, they realize this show is a different ball game altogether, and they would have to bring out the big guns to be noticed. Adeline and Darcy are highly competitive, just like other contestants when it comes to this pageant. They give Emilia an illusion that every daughter has to go through relentless training to make them winners. Thankfully Emilia does not do that.

The daughters of Adeline and Darcy, namely Lilliana and Mia, are friendly with each other and Sophie. The young girls do not believe in turning against each other, something that they know their mothers would do. Young girls like them do not want to live up to the stereotype of women bringing other women down, which gives them a reason to help Sophie because it is her first outing as a pageant contestant.

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Adeline Is The Worst

The film began with Adeline killing another contestant, Harper, and her death being considered a robbery gone wrong. This set the stage for Adeline Bordeaux to unleash her tactics to sabotage other contestants, especially Sophie. Viewers are also introduced to Rebbeca Bordeaux, Adeline’s mother and a pageant legend. Being raised under the shadow of her famous mother has meant constant pressure on Adeline to win, but most of the accolades go to her daughter Lilliana, which is so far a non issue for her. Adeline, this time around, cannot fathom another defeat because she is stubborn about proving to her mother that she can win after all. It is obvious that Adeline’s hatred for all her competitors comes from her need to be victorious by implementing unethical maneuvers to sabotage them. She is not liked by many in the competition, and she knows it. Her obsession with winning made her indifferent to the rest, making her unstoppable at this point.

Emilia and Sophie are favorites because they are not just new entrants but come as a duo who are not overtly prepped. This mother-daughter duo love being themselves, and they don’t buy into the notion of practiced perfection. Their presence threatens Adeline’s chances, and she is planning to destroy them.

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‘Nightmare Pageant Moms’ Ending Explained: Was Adeline Successful In Her Plans?

Adeline puts her plan into motion. By the looks of it, Adeline’s life revolves around this pageant and the many others she has lost in the past. As emphasized by her mother Rebecca, who herself turns out to be a toxic parent, Adeline will have to win. On the other hand, Rebecca is disgusted by the methods utilized by Adeline. Adeline ropes in Darcy as a so-called partner in crime just to be able to go through with her agenda. Adeline is not aware of the damage she is causing to her physical and mental health, and she also might be driving her daughter away by putting such unsurmountable pressure on her.

Adeline begins by destroying her gown and blaming it on Emilia, followed by stealing Sophie’s poetry. All of these come across as aggressive acts. Adeline is under the impression that there is no way people in this competition would catch up to her carrying out such illegal acts. Her inability to influence Judge Cyrus pushes her to commit a felony, proving to the viewers that Adeline is spiraling and she needs to leave the competition to seek help. 

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As the competition is ending , Darcy, Emilia, Sophie, and Adeline’s daughter Lilliana, as predicted, catch on to Adeline’s constant ways of manipulating judges and the fact that there is proof of Judge Cyrus being in her company minutes before he died. They want to expose her because her harmful behavior proves that she is a threat to the community. Her obsession is making her behave like a maniac.

With a local television channel at the event, the setup is right to expose Adeline by projecting the CCTV footage of her with Judge Cyrus in the hope that this would force her to confess her crimes. Things turn out exactly as everyone predicted, but to their shock, Adeline has a meltdown. With this confrontation, there is no hiding the fact that Adeline is in deep trouble. To make sense of her behavior; one must understand her mother, Rebbeca, who was the reason behind Adeline becoming the kind of woman she is today. Her breakdown is the result of generational trauma in their family caused by Rebecca. The matriarch, till the end, does not take accountability for her daughter’s unwarranted behavior. They seem like a knock-off version of Cersei and Tywin Lannister. Rebbeca, instead of trying to understand how she must also be responsible for the monster that Adeline turned out to be, abandons her daughter just to save her legacy. Adeline losing the pageant is a nightmare for her because she drifted away from her mind, family, and friends on her path to desperately be the winner.

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Nightmare Pageant Moms ends with no winner being declared in the wake of Adeline’s truth coming out, as stated by one of the judges, Vanessa, who visits Emilia and Sophie. The pageant committee has been permanently closed for all the right reasons. Emilia managed to gather funds from the insurance claim for her spa, but they were unable to get enough money for Sophie’s literary program in London. Vanessa offers to sponsor Sophie because she saw the potential in a girl who stood firm on her feet and was not carried away by the make-believe world of pageantry. Sophie is elated and thankful because this is what she always wanted. All’s well in the end.


Final Thoughts

Nightmare Pageant Moms could have been a short film because there are only a few words in my dictionary to describe this TV movie, and those are tacky, dramatic, and a borderline soapy drama. If only the writer, Melissa Cassera, had not made the plot and the lead antagonist of this film so predictable, it would have been an easy film to watch. The performances of all the actors are subpar, unnatural and hammy. There is no reason to watch this film because there are not even good clothes to look at after a while, and that is what pageantry is all about. It is a case of the right subject but bad execution. I will not recommend this film.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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