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Proposal, The (2009) Print E-mail
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
ImageI have a proposal for you.  I’ll give you, say, twelve of my hard earned dollars and two hours of my time.  I’ll even let you try and sell me a car and some soda pop before we get down to business.  All I ask for in return is some fresh romantic comedy entertainment – a storyline that hasn’t been sewn from the scraps of ones that came before it (and that isn’t based on a lie or misunderstanding – I am SO over that), two affable main characters with chemistry that makes me root for them to be together and some clever bits along the way.  Why is it so FREAKING hard for you to hold up your end of this bargain???

The creators of The Proposal came through for us on only one of these counts.  With two lesser actors (like, oh, I don’t know – Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson?) leading the way, this film would be a complete disaster.  It is, instead, a watch-able disaster with people in it who are so charming you almost forget you are watching a bad film.  Almost.  Whoever talked Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds into signing on to this thing should be given some sort of prize, because the material is well beneath both of them.  The script is clichéd, formulaic and built on a ridiculous premise.  No amount of charm could mask all of that.

The hackneyed plot:  Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock), a high powered muckety-muck in the publishing world forces her beleaguered assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her so she can avoid deportation to Canada.  Before they can tie the knot, however, they have to look like a couple and learn enough about each other to pass an immigration relationship test.  In an attempt to kill both birds with one stone, they head off to Sitka, Alaska to celebrate Andrew’s grandmother’s 90th birthday and let his family in on their happy news.  High jinks ensue.

At the risk of being called the dreaded ‘F’ word (no, the other one –‘feminist’), I am going to briefly climb on the little soapbox I carry around folded up in my pocket for situations like this one.  Why, in film, do women in power always have to be portrayed as cold, raging - for lack of a better word - bitches?  Are chicks in charge still so threatening that in our art forms we desperately need to vicariously tear them down?

Sandra Bullock, who is so naturally warm she has a hard time pulling this role off, plays a painfully stereotypical scary she-boss.  Her employees cower when she enters a room, her first act is to fire a high ranking one and her second is to tell her assistant he cannot go visit his family that weekend to celebrate with them.   This is a woman who clearly needs to be taken down a peg or two.  The best way to do that?  Send her to Alaska in heels.  

What is it with the movie people that they think women don’t know when and when not to wear heels?  Even Sarah Jessica Parker owns a pair of sneakers, I promise you.  I assume they’re cute and super-expensive, but still quite comfy and appropriate for rugged terrain.  In addition to the ill advised footwear, she is uptight and uncomfortable with Andrew’s welcoming, family-oriented kin and, to top it off, hates their off-the-charts cute fluffy white puppy.  Who hates puppies?  The character is then, of course, tamed, softened and shown the error of her ways.  The writing is sexist, stale and worse of all, lazy (folding up and returning soapbox to pocket).

The saving grace for The Proposal is the cast.  The two stars have quality chemistry and a fun rapport.  Sandra Bullock is adorable as always.  Ryan Reynolds is a breath of fresh air.  He is sweet and sarcastic, boyish and wry all at the same time.  I daresay he may turn out to be the best thing to happen to romantic comedies in a long while.  If used correctly, he even has the potential to be this generation’s Tom Hanks (if a tad better looking).  All he needs now is to find his own Meg Ryan (I propose Amy Adams and Anne Hathaway as possible candidates).   

And then there’s Betty White (playing nonagenarian Grandma Annie).  Why, oh why, hasn’t this woman worked more?  She is hilarious and awesome and lovable and the film is better every single time she’s on the screen.  Dear powers that be – please get Ms. White into as many movies as possible.  Pronto.

These three people are so enchanting that if you’re looking for a romantic comedy amid the Terminators and the Transformers, you will probably enjoy this film.  Just don’t expect anything beyond some lovely people to watch.  Unfortunately, that’s the best The Proposal has to offer.

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