The Assignment

Ali Naro 8 February, 2018 Comments Off on The Assignment
The Assignment

Starring – Michelle Rodriguez, Tony Shalhoub, Anthony LaPaglia, Caitlin Gerard and Sigourney Weaver
Directed by Walter Hill

“Now I’ll return to my books and my private thoughts. Goodbye to out there and all that. Goodnight, room. Goodnight, moon. Go fuck yourself, Ralph. Adios muchacho, and be on your way.” -Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Rachel Jane in The Assignment

God, I just love Sigourney Weaver. Don’t you just love Sigourney Weaver too? And who knew she looks so hot in a suit and tie? Oh my! Where’s my smelling salts? I’m feeling the vapors coming on. Hey, I’m originally from the South where apparently women got the vapors, a lot. Whatever the vapors actually are, because I’m still not sure, but if they are anything like what I feel when I look at Sigourney Weaver in a suit and tie, or even better, in a vest and a tie, then those vapors be quite powerful! 😉

Look! It’s Sigourney Weaver in a vest and a tie! And yeah, I admit it, I prefer my ladies to be on the feminine side when it comes to their looks, but there is just something about a lady in a vest and a tie that just makes me all squishy inside. Just ask my wife. She’s got a body like Marilyn Monroe, but put her hot, curvy, quite feminine body in a vest and a tie, and I’m hers for life! And I better be since I married her and all. 

So, anyway, enough about my obsession with Sigourney Weaver being in a suit and tie during a lot of The Assignment…well, at least for this paragraph. Maybe. The Assignment is a movie that faced controversy from the LGBT community before it was even made. And I get why people were so upset when they read that the movie was about a mad doctor (played by Sigourney Weaver) who takes her revenge out on the hitman who killed her brother by turning him into a hit woman. Hollywood loves to shout from the hill tops how liberal and open-minded and politically correct and blah, blah, blah they are, but we in the LGBT community know better. We’ve been dealing with their homophobic and transphobic ways in movies since basically movies were invented, so Hollywood making a movie that actually proves that gender identity is all about the brain and not the body certainly doesn’t sound at all like it would come from a movie about a mad doctor who surgically forces a man to change into a woman.

But guess what?

It does.

And what a pleasant surprise that was for me. And hell, even for my wife, who is no action film fan at all. She’s not even a film fan in general. She does this odd thing where she reads books instead of watching TV, but she was intrigued by the plot of The Assignment, wondering what in the hell Hollywood would do with a story like that and even she was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t fuck it all up. So much so, we’ve spent the last few days watching The Assignment several times and discussing the concept of gender and queer identity, because something else that is very surprising about The Assignment is that it is full of queer characters/situations. And Sigourney Weaver plays one of those queer characters. Hot damn! 

Look! It’s Sigourney Weaver in a suit and a tie and a vest! She hit the trifecta here. But the picture is not from the movie. There’s only like 3 pictures of her on Google in one of her suits and ties from The Assignment and I don’t know enough about computers to capture an image from the film myself, so let’s just take a look at a picture she did for a photo shoot for something else entirely non-related to The Assignment because, hello, it’s Sigourney Weaver in a suit and a tie and a vest, so why the hell not?! 

The thing is, I will never protest a movie, and certainly not if I haven’t even seen it first. I will be concerned about it and hope that it doesn’t hurt us in the community, but I just won’t ever protest art. I just won’t. There is a reason why artists make the art they make, and we have the right to not support it and let our opinions against it be known, but art just should never be censored. History keeps proving that. Or as my wife once said while we were watching the film Christopher and His Kind about being gay in Germany during the Nazis’ rise to power, “When they start burning books, it’s time to leave.” When you censor art, then what’s next?

And so when I was reading all about the controversy of The Assignment while it was going on, all I could think was, “Oh no, this better not turn into another The Last Temptation of Christ all over again.” Because when I was in high school back in 1988, The Last Temptation of Christ was released to HUGE AMOUNTS OF CONTROVERSY. People were all over the Bible Belt South, and even other parts of America, protesting and picketing outside of the blasphemous movie theaters showing a film where Jesus got married and had kids. Christians were mad as hell that Hollywood dared to tarnish and misrepresent Jesus like that, and they were having none of it! And most of them that were having none of it, hadn’t even seen the film they were standing outside the movie theater protesting (there was no social media back then or else they would have just been on Twitter and Facebook protesting; we’ve kind of gotten lazy with going out and actually protesting things nowadays, we just stay at home and do most of our protesting in our underwear). I, however, wanted to watch the film to see for myself how badly Hollywood had fucked up Jesus’s life, since that was all people were saying about the film, and because I just couldn’t understand how anyone could hate on a movie they hadn’t even seen. But living in the Bible Belt South in the very repressed 1980s, it took several years for me to be able to even watch the damn movie, because it was damn hard to get a hold of, because remember, no Internet, so no streaming, no Amazon, no nothing to find this movie unless it was in a theater or in a video rental store and that wasn’t happening where I was living. But eventually I got a copy of the movie and guess what, the movie actually proved that Jesus was supposed to die on the cross, not get married and have kids, and when Jesus understands this during the movie, he wakes up on the cross and realizes it’s all been a dream, just like when Bobby “died” on Dallas, and then Jesus dies on the cross and saves us all from our sinning ways, just like he said he would! The End.

Michelle Rodriguez as Frank Kitchen before the operation…

Michelle Rodriguez as Frank Kitchen after the operation.
That Sigourney Weaver is not only one hell of a good actor, and looks amazing in a suit and tie, she’s one hell of a good surgeon too. 

And so, after witnessing the fiasco that was the controversy of The Last Temptation of Christ, I learned an important lesson, sometimes art that we think will hurt us, might actually help us, because even though The Assignment is in many ways an homage to silly B movies, so it should have never been taken seriously in the first place, not even before it was made, but like I said, I get why it was hated on by our community, because really, who can trust Hollywood; it also has a lot to say when it comes to gender and queer identity. Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez) is a cisgender, straight man who is hired to kill Dr. Rachel Jane’s brother after he defaults on a loan from the mob, and the next thing Frank knows, he wakes up as a woman. So the character and the act that everyone protested – Frank Kitchen, a cisgender man being forced to become a woman, well, it is actually handled quite rationally and reasonably in The Assignment, especially for a film from Hollywood that is an homage to B movies. Frank proves that gender identity is about the mind and not the body because he is still very much a man on the inside after the operation. He still thinks of himself as a man. He still has all the mannerisms of a man. He still dresses like a man. He still talks and walks and all around acts like a man. Frank Kitchen just happens to be in a woman’s body instead. In other words, Frank is now transgender after the operation. He now is living as a transgender person because he is a man trapped in a woman’s body. And that is pretty much how it is played in the film. Dr. Rachel Jane, who’s character has performed many sex reassignment surgeries (now referred to as sex confirmation surgery), explains in the movie why she enacted her revenge in such a strange manner, aka instead of just killing Frank, she changed him into a woman. She says of the operation, “I decided I wouldn’t and couldn’t do something simply for revenge, so I also performed the surgery partially as an experiment. I wanted to reinforce the theory that, if gender is identity, then even the most extreme surgical procedure will fail to alter the essence, and this proved to be true. Frank Kitchen is still very much the man he was because he believes himself to be the man he was.” And that’s pretty much the argument about gender identity, that it is about the head and not about the body, and The Assignment says it right there in the movie, a movie we protested because we were upset Hollywood would do just the opposite. This is why it is important to watch a movie before protesting it, because like The Last Temptation of Christ was for Christians, this is also a movie we are missing out on, simply based on a description of it. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s rather upsetting that we are starting to mirror the ultra-right Christian community when it comes to this.

Look! It’s Sigourney Weaver again! Okay, so she isn’t in a suit and tie or even in a vest and a tie in this picture. And of course, this picture has nothing to do with The Assignment. But she is in a wet t-shirt without a bra on, and in case you didn’t notice, you can see her naked breasts, so why are you still wondering why I posted this picture in this review? You’re lucky I don’t post this picture in every review I’ve ever written. Don’t you know I was very grateful for the invention of the camera the day I discovered this gem on that damn Google. I may be a bit biased, but I’m pretty sure this is the best damn picture ever taken by any camera ever in the history of time.

It also saddens me that we are missing out on this movie, because The Assignment is also very much a queer movie in general, and we don’t get a lot of those coming out of Hollywood. In fact, The Assignment is one of the queerest movies I’ve ever seen come out of Hollywood. Soon after Frank’s male body is changed to a female form, he starts sleeping with a woman and so basically he is now in a sense, a lesbian too, at least to the outside world that can see only the outside of this relationship, not knowing that Frank is still a man on the inside. And so he then does what all lesbian couples do, he moves in right away with his girlfriend and gets a dog and gets a home life for the first time in his life. We lesbians, we sure do love coupling up and moving in together pretty much before we even meet each other. And we can complain that the movie inserted this lesbian stereotype, but I’ve lived that lesbian stereotype, because my wife asked me to move in with her after only 3 months of dating, and even though I hesitated because I was like, “We’ve only known each other for 3 months, so that doesn’t exactly sound rational,” I still did it anyway, because I was madly in love and who cared about being rational?

So we got a transgender character who is also now, in a sense, a lesbian, and then we got his girlfriend, who slept with Frank when he was a man and then sleeps with Frank as a woman too, so we got a bisexual character as well, and her name is Johnnie, so queerness is just all over her. And then we got Sigourney Weaver’s character, Dr. Rachel Jane, who when she isn’t wearing a straitjacket in the movie, because her character is in a mental hospital (and who knew Sigourney Weaver could rock a straitjacket, but she does), her character only wears suits and ties or vests and ties when she isn’t in that straitjacket. Sure, her character has a male lover, so she could be straight or bisexual, but Dr. Rachel Jane walks around in the world looking like a butch lesbian, so I imagine the world treats her as one as well. To be honest, there aren’t a lot of straight characters or even situations in this film, other than Frank having to now be a woman dealing with men being gross and condescending and creepy and leering to Frank, since they think he’s a she. Welcome to the wonderful world of being a woman and trying to deal with men, Frank!

I also can’t help thinking that maybe we should have just trusted Sigourney Weaver? Well, I did when I read she was going to be in this controversial movie. She has proven to be an extremely rational and logical person. I mean just look at the woman’s superstar career, yet no controversies or multiple marriages or drug or alcohol induced incidents or nothing that is tabloid-worthy happening in her life during her entire blockbuster, multiple Oscar nominations, kicking ass and taking names career. And I knew she wasn’t going to be in a movie that treats transgender issues in a degrading manner, because she has a history of being in very gay positive projects. Even when she did one of those Lifetime/Hallmark/oh-no-a-straight-white-lady-is-in-peril movies that are usually not very good, she did one that was actually amazingly good, Prayers for Bobby, based on a true story about a mother who is dealing with the death of her gay son. And she was in Jeffrey, a classic gay film. And she played the mom of a troubled gay son in Political Animals, so yeah, we should have trusted her. 

And maybe we should have trusted Michelle Rodriguez as well, who is bisexual and out. I just didn’t see her being in a movie that would be so offensive to a group of people that are in her very own community and even she has said as much. But we are a society now that judges quickly and harshly, and so we judged Michelle and Sigourney and The Assignment quickly and harshly. And we wonder why Hollywood doesn’t make a lot of movies about us? It’s not just because they see us as box office poison, sometimes they just don’t want to put up with the protesting. 

Oh well. Don’t watch The Assignment if you don’t want to, you certainly have that right. But I, for one, am glad that I gave the film a chance. I was not only pleasantly surprised, but I also had a good time. Plus, I would have missed out on Sigourney Weaver wearing suits and vests and ties, and that would have been a shame, because nothing makes me happy quite like watching Sigourney Weaver telling the world to fuck off while looking all butch.

Fun Fact: The Assignment was once titled (Re)Assignment, and that is a way better title because it makes way more sense for the movie. I think they changed it trying to appease the protesters, and, once again, although I understand why the protests, this is why art should never be censored. When we censor it, we just fuck it all up.

P.S.: I’ve been in mental hospitals many times, and I gotta say, The Assignment either had a great set designer who has actually been in a mental hospital, or else they filmed in a real mental hospital, because mental hospitals really are that cold, hard, old and degrading looking, and the doctors in these lovely places really do treat the patients like they are idiots or children. Oh well, at least I never had to wear a straitjacket while I was in those awful places. And the movie did help me deal with some of the issues I have about those awful places. See, this is why you should always give art a chance, you just never know, it might help heal you.