Posted in Film

The Sandra Bullock Files #30: Miss Congeniality (2000)

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The Sandra Bullock Files is a series that looks at the films of Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock, all the way from her debut in 1987, to her two major 2018 releases, Ocean’s Eight and Bird Box.

Sandra began the year 2000 by producing her very first movie — Gun Shy — and ended the year by acting in her still most successful film to date that she also produced — Miss Congeniality. In a constantly surprising career that has included action, comedy, mystery, and romance, Sandra has truly done it all, but most of her fans would probably single out Miss Congeniality as one of her best movies, not just because of how fun of it is, but also because it’s one of her rare films that fully showcases her comedic talent.

With a lackluster cast, the movie could have been a terrible direct-to-video trifle, but with Sandra playing FBI Agent Gracie Hart, and with a surprisingly strong roster of supporting players, Miss Congeniality is often very funny, and it still holds up well. Although the dreadful 2005 sequel remains one of her worst movies, the original is an entertaining laugh riot that is easily one of Sandra’s best comedies.

While Miss Congeniality is a tad long at nearly two hours — and could have been even longer, with director Donald Petrie revealing in his commentary track that subplots involving Gracie Hart’s mom and dad were both axed in the cutting room — it is never dull, and even its lengthy finale at the Miss United States Pageant is filled with another action and surprises to keep things moving swiftly.

Sandra was nominated for a second Golden Globe nomination for Miss Congeniality (losing to Renee Zellweger for Nurse Betty), and it’s easy to see why: she gets to play an unattractive, sloppy FBI agent in the film’s first reel, and the moments before the ugly duckling is transformed make for Sandra’s funniest moments, with her gifts for comedy put fully on display. Just the way she eats her ice cream at the bar, snorting and slurping to great effect, makes for plenty of laughs, and her first scene with Caine not only sets up plenty of punch-lines for later but also makes for great comedic chemistry. Sandra is always at her best when she’s paired with on-screen talent who can match her, and Sandra got one of her best gifts with Caine in this movie — their relationship gives the comedy an unexpected heartbeat.

Miss Congeniality has become one of those staples on Sunday afternoon TBS and TNT marathons, the kind of movie you turn on halfway through and watch all the way to the end. It’s no masterpiece of comedy, but it’s frothy and fun, and gives Sandra one of her most memorable comedic roles. After starring in and producing this film, she worked again with the writer Marc Lawrence on his 2002 directorial debut Two Weeks Notice, but Miss Congeniality remains the movie that best represented the duo’s audience-friendly comedic sensibilities.

Best Scene: Having-a-bad-hair-decade Sandra meets the gay, super classy Caine at a posh New York restaurant.

Best Line: “I am in a dress, I have gel in my hair, I haven’t slept all night, I’m starved, and I’m armed! Don’t mess with me!” *falls*

Fun Facts

The boxing scene in Gracie’s home was completely ad-libbed by Sandra.

Sandra and Bratt did all their own fighting.

“I’m gliding here!” is a parody of the famous line “I’m walking here!” from Midnight Cowboy.

Miss Congeniality grossed $212 million worldwide, making for one of Sandra’s biggest hits up to that time.

For this film, Sandra won the American Comedy Award for Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture, the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Actress — Comedy, and the Teen Choice Award for Film — Choice Wipeout.

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