Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous (2005)

@IMDb

This is the sequel to a very classical Sandra Bullock rom-com in which she stars as the rough FBI Agent Gracie Hart who gets to go undercover as a beauty pageant contestant. In the meanwhile the tomboy Agent learns to be more of a girl, befriends another of the contestants and falls in love with her male partner. Yeah, like I said the first one was pretty straightforward in every way.

As this film begins everything is twisted just a little bit and we get to see something classical, but in a very new format.

After a failed mission because of her newfound fame and a devastatingly cold break-up with her boyfriend it is time for a new start for Gracie Hart. That new start comes in the form of an embracing of her femininity as she dons the position of a public representative of the FBI. In the process she acquires a bodyguard in the hostile and ill-tempered loner Sam Fuller. Together the two will then have to solve the kidnapping of Gracie’s best friend and the current Miss United States. And this is where it gets interesting.

Gracie Hart & Sam Fuller

As the movie begins one of Hart’s colleagues tease her about her relationship with another agent (the male partner from the first movie), and he makes comments about how the two are “friends and coworkers, friendly coworkers” as well as mentioning how sweet it is to see “two agents in love”. This is a very interesting start put into the context of the rest of the story, it draws our attention to the friends and coworkers aspect which in turned was transformed into love. An aspect that is worth keeping in mind as the story unfolds.

Only a few minutes into the movie Hart’s boyfriend dumps her over the phone. A crushed Hart tries to understand why, and in a voice breaking with insecurity asks him if it was the sex. Something that clearly indicates that this was quite possibly one of her own insecurities and doubts in their relationship. Perhaps it wasn’t living up to her expectations, perhaps she felt she couldn’t live up to the expectations. Either way the mere mentioning of their sexual interactions in relation to their break-up is enough of a seed of hetero-doubt. The fact that she briefly after this break-up and self-examination decides to take her life in a new direction, an act that sows the seed. Then some highly nourishing fertilizer is added to the seed as she meets with her new style consultant, an obviously gay and flamboyant man who doesn’t beat around the bush, but comes out and asks her, “Are you open to new experiences?” - Enter Sam Fuller.

From Gracie and Sam’s very first meeting the two hit it off, literally. Sam walks straight into Gracie without as much as an apology or look back. Gracie whose nerves are fried already because of her bad break-up immediately takes offence and verbally goes after Sam. The two orally battle each other and a physical fight is only prevented by the agents around them. The beginning of a beautiful relationship.

The movie then skips 10 months into the future, months during which Fuller and Hart have been working closely together. We get to see that the animosity and tension is still very much intact. Hart condescends Fuller, and Fuller appears to be ready to kick her arse at the blink of an eye. Fuller finally gets enough and walks away from her assignment at Hart’s side. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the fates would have none of it and as Gracie’s best friend Cheryl is kidnapped Fuller and Hart are once again forced to work together. Their FBI chief who apparently thinks “the two have a bond” assigns Fuller as Hart’s bodyguard as they head out to Vegas to work on the kidnapping case.
Neither of the two agents are too pleased about the turn of events and are once again up in each other’s faces at the airport, but despite the tension they both make their way to Vegas. Once there and installed at the hotel Sam takes a tour of Gracie’s suit only to exclaim, “You can fit my entire room in your steam shower”. At which Hart playfully with an almost flirtatious tone replies, “Feel free to move in there”. Later on in the same scene Gracie barely holds it together as she sees her best friend tied up and forced to deliver a ransom message. For the first time in the entire movie Sam’s eyes soften and her voice becomes gentle as she urges Gracie to relax and focus on her job. We are shown that beneath that façade of tension and conflict there is something more, something playful and something gentle.

Despite Fuller’s advice Hart single-handedly throws herself into the case and without reporting to anyone goes off chasing leads. As she returns she is met by a clearly angry and upset Sam who starts digging into her for leaving without telling her. This argument culminates in an incredibly hot and dysfunctional bathroom scene (aren’t they all!?). Alone in the bathroom the two go at each other, verbally sparing and being in each other’s face until Sam actually hits Gracie. The two get into a physical altercation that only offers a temporary release to a constantly building tension.

Body language when it's smokin' hot

After an embarrassing interlude of Hart attacking a celebrity the two are dismissed and about to be sent back to NY. However at the airport Gracie gets another lead and direction to take the case in and ends up begging Fuller to stay on with her. Originally Fuller was completely content to go back home, but as Gracie pleads with her, her resolve crumbles and she gives in. Sam might constantly be in Gracie’s face, but when those big brown eyes beg her, there’s nothing to do but to fold. Fuller might have anger management issues, but she’s still whipped.

The begging scene is followed by a moment of almost tranquil domesticity and intimacy. Gracie and Sam end up spending the night on a sofa and slowly open up to each other. The darkness makes masks of stoicism pointless and the two share childhood memories and tales of their deceased parents. They both reveal that they’ve read up on each other, and Sam even says she’s read Gracie’s book. And on the dubious content of the ghostwritten “memoires” Sam stated that she “liked the pictures though”. A tranquil moment of intimacy in a comedic action-fest, it stands out.

The case-solving continues and as the pairing is getting yet another break while they’re working undercover at a retirement home Gracie in a moment of excitement wraps her hand around Sam’s arm and pulls her closer. In itself it is merely a nice moment of touching, however only minutes later one of the local Vegas agents, who is helping the duo, finds his fiancée giving another man the exact same arm-touching. In his case it sparks his suspicions about the pair and it is also revealed that the two touchers were in fact involved in an affair. Something that then adds importance to Gracie and Sam’s previously innocent touch.

This is another moment of comedy, but it has an underlying message of *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*. As the duo are threatening a man to make him help them Fuller tells him to, “Be a man!”. At which Gracie retorts, “Yeah, like Fuller”. It’s very tongue in cheek and silly, but it shows an awareness of how butch the portrayal of Fuller is and also making us aware that it’s not a coincidence, but intentionally.

Despite their best intentions of helping out on the case they are shot down by the SAC in charge who ends up personally humiliating and belittling Hart. Something that doesn’t sit right with Fuller who is immediately on her toes defending her partner. Unfortunately they are dismissed and this time it is up to Sam to convince Gracie to stay. After having found yet another lead Sam taunts Gracie until the two of them actually get into a physical fight. The two rumble at the airport and in-between arm-twisting and chokeholds Sam manages to convince Gracie not to give up. Coming to a truce the two pull away and decided to create a diversion and get back out there to solve the case. As they are forming a plan Sam reaches over and straightens up the fake boobs that were part of the disguise Hart had been wearing at the retirement home. I’ve got no comment really, so I’ll just write it again; Sam takes it upon herself to straighten up Gracie’s dangling fake boobs. Yeah, let’s leave it at that.

The final scene of the movie was what cemented my need to go back and do one of these analysis the first time I saw it. It plays exactly like a male/female love-story would and it just feels as if the role of Sam Fuller was originally written for a man, but instead of changing anything (other than scrapping the final kiss) they went with a woman. I like it, I like it a lot.

After having rescued her best friend from a watery death and gotten some just friends time with her, Gracie seeks out a lone Sam. The two tentatively make sure the other is alright and Gracie thanks Sam for having saved her as she got stuck underwater during the climax of the movie.

Gracie: Thanks for coming back for me.
Sam: It’s not like I love you –or anything.
G: I know.
S: I was just doing my job.
G: I know.

They give each other a lingering look while Gracie gives a Sam a faint smile.

S: But I gotta admit, that when you were saying that stuff back there about not having any friends…I know what you mean by that.
G: You got a friend…Yeah. *pauses* Agent Johnson over in Mail Fraud, I think he likes you.
Gracie starts snorting and laughing like crazy and Sam joins her.
G: But you know if that doesn’t work out, then…you’ve always got-*she points at herself*

The two end up in a big hug.



On the surface they speak of friends, but the tension and looks are simply a little too intense and a little too lingering for me to be able to completely dismiss it as BFFs. No this feels like the "friends and coworkers, friendly coworkers" from the opening scene, and from that there's only a very small step to "two agents in love".

The movie then ends on Gracie and Sam being teamed up as constant partners. That’s what we call a metaphor and a beginning.

As if the relationship between Gracie and Sam was not enough, the entire movie is filled with events, lines and actions catering to a queer audience. One of the minor characters, Joel the style consultant is portrayed as a stereotypically gay man with a sense of self-deprecation but without the mocking that is so common. Then there is also a substantial and important part of the movie that takes place on a drag club where the agents have to mingle with both patrons and performers. The movie doesn't preach, condemn or mock, simply uses the club as its setting. And as if that wasn’t enough Gracie actually jumps a woman and while straddling her starts poking at her boobs. The straddled woman just so happens to be Dolly Parton who gets to deliver the following line which we've all been wanting to ask Sandra Bullock (in our dreams), “Why are you on top of me?”.

Like I said, it’s a gay romp with drag queens, Vegas glam, subtexty tension with innuendos and physical interactions as well as beautiful women wearing suits and masculine shoes while waving guns.

If you're looking to read some subtext, this is definitely the movie for you.

5 comments:

  1. Even before you mentioned the final scene and how it plays like a m/f love story, I was thinking it all sounded like a typical romantic comedy.

    I am so going to have to watch this now. :D

    ReplyDelete
  2. I know, it really does play out like a classical love story.

    I might be biased cause Sandra Bullock is hard to resist, but it is an enjoyable movie. So hope you do and that you have fun :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excellent analysis, I like it a lot...

    There's also one of the last scenes of the movie, when Gracie and Sam are presented as constant partners, and Gracie mocks Sam by "singing" the exact same song that she did in "Miss Congeniality 1" with her male partner...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Like it's been many years since you posted this but I just wanted to add Fuller says "Mem, can live with them.... can't live with them."

    Also, it's only after years of coming out and being gay did I recognize this movie as possibly gay lol.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete