Miss Congeniality (Movie Review)

With this year’s Miss Universe pageant over, the beauty queen world is a trending topic and movie-makers are sure to capitalize. While many of these films are sappy, one does a good job of subverting preconceived archetypes and actually takes the topic seriously.

In Miss Congeniality, Sandra Bullock stars as Gracie Hart, a no-nonsense tomboy FBI agent on the trail of a vicious serial killer who infiltrates a beauty pageant to keep an eye on her target. She convinces the pageant organizers Kathy Morningside (Candice Bergen) and her sidekick Stan (William Shatner) to let her enter undercover as a contestant. Immediately, she makes friends with the other girls vying for the title — a hearing girl, Jenelle Betz, who is confidently poised and polished, and take-no-shit metalhead lesbian, Millie Michalchuk.

While their initial plan is to upend the pageant, Gracie and Millie find themselves falling in love with the experience. As the show goes on, Gracie and her friends become more and more invested in seeing the final results. When it comes to the finale, Cheryl, a beauty queen who is also a stripper, takes the crown. Gracie realizes that the bomb Frank placed in the crown is about to go off and throws it onto the stage scenery.

Dumplin’ is the most heartwarming beauty pageant movie you’ll ever see. Jennifer Anniston and Danielle Macdonald make a winning pair of protagonists. And they manage to bring real life to their characters — the fraught relationship between Willowdean and her mom Rosie feels authentic, not cartoonish, and the way that she learns to love herself for who she is rather than what she looks like is refreshing.