Friday, March 7, 2014

37. Miss Congeniality (2000)



Code-name: April 25th
("because it's not too hot and not too cold. All you need is a light jacket.")

Director: Donald Petrie ("How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days")
Type: dramedy, girl power

Cast:
Gracie Hart/Gracie Lou Free-Brush- Sandra Bullock
Eric Matthews- Benjamin Bratt
Victor Melling- Michael Caine
Cathy Morningside- Candice Bergen
M.C. Stan Fields- William Shatner
Frank Tobin- Steve Monroe
Cheryl Frasier ("Miss Rhode Island")- Heather Burns
"Miss Texas"- Deidre Quinn
"Miss Hawaii"- Asia De Marcos
"Miss New York"- Karen Krantz
FBI Chief Harry McDonald- Ernie Hudson

Notable Golden Globe Nominations:
  • Best Actress (comedy/musical)- Sandra Bullock
  • Best Original Song "One in a Million"
    (side-note: No wonder sometimes I have trouble getting that song out of my head)
Write-up:

I just got through re-watching this movie to prep for this entry. Apparently, that wasn't entirely necessarily, but nonetheless, I had a good time like I always do.
Probably the biggest reason I come back to "Miss Congeniality" time and time again is the quotability of it. There are so many good lines, a lot of which are in my everyday vocabulary when the situation calls for it.

The family favorite is at the top of the page :-P although when my dad does it, he says "light sweater" instead of jacket.
We also love:
  • [Gracie] "Hey, I'm gliding here!"
  • [Victor/Gracie/Victor] "Smile. Winners wear the crown, losers wear a frown/I would so love to hurt you right now/Just as long as you... smile"
  • [Cathy Morningside] "It is not a beauty pageant. It is a scholarship program"
But a lot of my favorites come from Cheryl Frasier from Rhode Island, especially:

"Oh, my parents don't like anything ostentatious and they really don't like fire."
(yeah, I got a new word out of this movie :-P)


"I stole red underwear from a department store. My mother wouldn't buy them for me. She said they were Satan's panties."
(another quote that has me rolling over in laughter, but I can't help but wonder just how restricted was her upbringing, between this and the quote above)

and I would use this to describe my perfect date too:

"A men who takes me to a romantic dinner and then we walk along the beach barefoot discussing books and music and movies."
(mainly because those are the subjects I know enough about to carry a good lengthy conversation)

Spoilers from here on out

FBI Agent Gracie Hart is a workaholic and [more than] a bit of tomboy. Doesn't exactly scream beauty queen.

A terrorist known as "The Citizen" was planning an attack at the Miss United States pageant and the FBI decided they needed someone to go under cover to properly canvas the area for their investigation. After botching a sting operation, Gracie would have been stuck behind a desk if not for this assignment, which she accepts despite her opposition to the institution.

Once the showrunner, former beauty queen Cathy Morningside, agrees to this, Gracie meets Victor Melling, who had couched 10 girls all the way to the winner's circle.
With the same amount of enthusiasm as Gracie, he has this team of specialists transform her into someone ready for the catwalk... at least from a physical standpoint.

Along the way, Gracie befriends other contestants, including Miss Rhode Island, Texas, California, New York and Hawaii and learns what these girls are really like as well as a thing or two about herself.

Next to the script, the best part of this movies are the memorable characters that almost become like family.
This came out when I was starting to learn the names of various actors, so it was my first Sandra Bullock movie and my first Michael Caine movie. In the case of both, this is also my favorite movie by them.

I never really resented the institution of pageants. I just didn't like the fact that all the girls are stunningly gorgeous and I feel threatened by that. Because for the majority of the chauvinistic opposite sex, they exemplify their ideal woman. Skinny and beautiful.
Sure, I could go out of my way to beautify myself to get noticed more, but I shouldn't have to. [And I'm sure after this entry gets posted, my guy friends will berate me and reiterate that they think I'm awesome anyhow, so I'm gonna stop the self-depracation there]

But I also relate to Gracie Hart because she's a tomboy, she knows some sick self-defense moves (although I don't know how much I retained from those karate lessons years ago), and she's so focused on her work that she doesn't allow herself time to let loose and have fun.
That was my school & college personality. I didn't really hang with people socially in a big way until my senior year of college. I figured that there was enough pressure on me to get good grades that I didn't have time for much else. Certainly nothing that could take my eyes off the prize for too long.
It's also pretty bad-ass that she's from New Jersey and serves her state well. People joke about how much Jersey sucks... I was born there, went to college there and we own a shorehouse there, so at heart, I consider myself a Jersey girl. We could use more great representation outside of Snooki and other losers from "Jersey Shore" that aren't even from there.

Confession: I almost wrote down "Victor Maitland" as Michael Caine's character... I don't think I'm set to talk about that character for a month or two.
But this was the best introduction to Michael Caine that I could ask for because he was such a charmer in this movie. Namely, his dry sense of humor, but he says it with such authority. Must be the accent ;)

One thing cool about seeing this movie recently was being able to understand more of the allusions to other movies.
Everyone knows that the gliding line is a variant of the Midnight Cowboy quote "hey, I'm walking here!"

But this time around, I understood the "Rain Man" quote.
Cheryl was bummed out about her "April 25th" answer, saying she sounded like "Rain Man" and Gracie disagreed by giving her best Rain Man impression.
And I recognized that the song Gracie was playing on the water glasses was "Lara's Song" from "Dr. Zhivago."

Both of her talents were pretty cool. I figured out how to make glasses sing a few vacations ago, but apparently, you can only do them on crystal :-P
And of course, who could forget her "self defense" lesson where Agent Matthews gets his ass handed to him? The dude did kinda deserve it for all the chauvinistic crap he pulls throughout the movie, but to his credit, he does mean well [in this movie].

One interesting point this movie raises involves the contestant from New York. After she doesn't make the top 5, she makes a stand on the grounds of her sexuality:
"To all the lesbians out there, if I can make it in the top 10, so can you."
She ended up getting pulled off stage, but not before we catch a glimpse of her girlfriend (or just a fan) in the audience. Even more interesting now because a former Miss Kentucky recently came out and she had made it to the top 10 of 2011's Miss America pageant.
But at the time, I just found interesting in that it was something unexpected, but it was one of those moments in the movie that stood out. Maybe because it was unheard of back then.[Was it really only 14 years ago?].
Food for thought for sure.

Looking at the story, it's done pretty well. Gracie grows as a character throughout the film, from someone armed with only sarcasm and a gun who's doing an assignment to someone who genuinely cares for the other contestants. Even when the FBI pulls out, thinking they caught the person behind the threatening letter, she stays behind to see it through because she's following her instincts and wants to protect her friends.

There's also a good villain in Cathy Morningside. Her biggest motivation for going out to cause this destruction: egotism.
Her backstory was that she was runner-up in her pageant and took over for the winner when they "mysteriously came down with food poisoning". She had since been the showrunner and co-host of this pageant. Until the network decided to fire her for a fresh new face.
Definitely one of the better villain reveals I've seen in movies because I didn't see that coming until Gracie started to suspect her.

Can't go on without bringing up William Shatner. I did not grow up around "Star Trek," so this and "Fanboys" were the only times I'd seen him outside of the occasional Star Trek scene shown as part of a commercial or compilation. His character, Stan, is an all-around nice guy, but the network wants to replace him with someone newer and younger.
Even funnier how dated this movie is by Miss Texas's comment:
"I hope it's Ricky Martin"
[This was 10 years before he officially came out, but he was supposedly asked about it in December of 2000 because he has a tremendous gay following...]

And for those who don't know [I certainly didn't], the title refers to a pageant contestant who was voted the most popular among the others.

For the record, this movie has led us to watch a few pageants when they air on TV, but they're almost never this thrilling. And I don't mean that because no explosives were involved.

***

This was one of two movies that had a direct-to-DVD sequel that I couldn't wait to rent from Blockbuster and ended up being EXTREMELY disappointed.
They had the same writers, but it just wasn't the same. From what I remember, the plot was that Gracie had to investigate the kidnapping of Stan and Cheryl and Regina King plays her new partner. The most heartbreaking thing about it was that Agent Matthews broke up with Gracie early into the movie... after they spent so much time building up their chemistry in this movie, how can they just... do that? How?

Now I can only think of how Raj brought it up in "Big Bang Theory" in a discussion of movies that killed off their franchises.
"Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. I mean, you know a movie's bad when my homegirl Sandy B can't save it."

***
Next week:
continuing with the girl power theme with another female-centric movie that's extremely quotable, but 5 years before this movie's time



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