Classic Movie Thursdays: Miss Congeniality Review

So I watched Miss Congeniality…

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A few weeks ago I was standing in the line at my local supermarket when “One in a Million” by Bosson started streaming out of the store’s speakers. This was a pretty big song back when I was younger and instantly reminded me of this film. I had no choice but to watch it.

Okay, basic plot: Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) is a tomboyish FBI agent who’s demoted to desk duty after a recent screw-up during a field operation. When the FBI discover that a terrorist – known only as ‘The Citizen’ – has targeted The Miss America Beauty Pageant, they decide that an undercover agent posing as a contestant would be the best way to foil The Citizen’s plan. Gracie is the only agent eligible for the mission but her masculine demeanour is in no way suited for the pageant. The Agency calls in Victor Melling (Michael Caine) – a professional paegant consultant who has the impossible job of turning the beer belching Gracie into an elegant lady.

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This is one of my favourite Sandra Bullock films. Bullock has always made a point of playing strong, independent women who’s greatest asset is between their ears and not in their top. Gracie Hart is another great example of this. Yes, this is a funny, popcorn film but it has a great message about feminism at its heart. Gracie is a feminist who has nothing but utter disdain for the Miss America Pageant and the misogynistic ideals it forces women to fit into it. As she goes through the pageant process she gains a deeper understanding for its purpose and the contestants who enter it. She stops seeing them as vapid bimbos and realises that they’re women just like her who are trying to achieve greatness. They may not be doing it in the same way but isn’t that the point of feminism? Being afforded the opportunity to choose your destiny, no matter what that destiny might be.

I’m not here to lecture you on feminism, I just want to point out that Bullock does a fantastic job portraying a strong woman who learns that there are other forms of strength out there. Bullock is also extremely funny and has a great quirkiness to her comedic timing and performance. The success of this movie sits squarely on her shoulders and these are shoulders more than capable of taking the weight. Alongside Bullock, Michael Caine is excellent as the extravagant Victor Melling. His barbs of sarcasm are razor sharp and having an actor the class of Caine elevates the quality of this film greatly. Benjamin Bratt shows up in the film as Gracie’s partner/love interest. I never quite understood why Bratt never became a more successful leading man. He has the looks, charm and enough acting talent to hold a romcom or two together.

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My favourite portion of this movie is the transformation phase where a team of highly-skilled beauticians undergo the strenuous task of turning Gracie from hardened weed to beautiful, delicate flower. The whole process of waxing, grooming, tanning and tweezing reminded me of a scene out of RoboCop or The Six Million Dollar Man – “We can rebuild him; we have the technology”. Even though Gracie goes through this transformation to become a more traditional type of ‘beautiful’ she never looses her spirit or her sass. She walks away different but to suit her own standards and not some set for her by anyone else.

Overall, Miss Congeniality remains one of my favourites. It’s funny, has some entertaining acting and a great moral at its centre. It’s definitely worth watching.

3.5 star

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