Pros:Reynolds actually gives a funny performance, and Bullock gets her groove back too. Betty White!
Cons:VERY predictable plotting. Waste of Mary Steenburgen.
The Bottom Line: The plot is quite predictable, but there are a few VERY funny moments that lesser movies would have gotten nothing from. A most pleasant surprise for this skeptical viewer!
I am not a big Ryan Reynolds fan. Prior to THE PROPOSAL, I had never seen anything he’d done before that left any kind of impression on me. My wife was the same way…”have we seen him in anything before?” Bland (even wooden), usually in dreadful films like EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH, or in utterly forgettable roles such as in WOLVERINE.
Sandra Bullock is a past-master of the romantic comedy. She can give “smart*ss” and she can do “sweet” in the same movie. She doesn’t really create believable people as much as delightful screen personas. Lately, though, she’s clearly been fighting her age…trying to pull off roles that were too “young” for her. I don’t know if it’s her or her plastic surgery, but she has tended to mostly look vaguely angry…and her makeup is usually VERY harsh these days.
So I was primed not to care very much for THE PROPOSAL. And as a whole, it is a very predictable, by-the-numbers romantic comedy of the “they hate each other right up until the last second” ilk. But there were just a few scenes that popped with excellent timing, set-up and execution that had me laughing hard…so despite my better inclinations, I’m actually giving this movie a fairly solid recommendation. For what it attempts and accomplishes.
If you haven’t seen the trailer: Bullock plays a tough-as-nails book editor who has no life beyond work. She is feared by everyone in the office, because she is ruthless and apparently very good. She also bullies her assistant (Reynolds), making him work nights & weekends, and forcing him to run all kinds of errands that are certainly beneath his title. One day, this Canadian finds that she has been ignoring her immigration attorney for too long, and she is about to be deported. She will lose her position (for a year) to a man she just fired. Just as she is absorbing this news, in walks Reynolds. And Bullock hits upon the brilliant idea to announce to her bosses that she and Reynolds are about to be married, thus securing her place in the US.
INS is understandably skeptical, so for reasons that really don’t make a lot of sense, Bullock & Reynolds feel they must immediately fly to Alaska to meet Reynolds’ family and old friends. It’s the typical “fish out of water” scenario, with Bullock trying to walk in stiletto heels through a tiny Alaskan fishing town. Or trying to cope with her fear of boats. Or trying to get along with the family dog when she hates dogs. NO surprises. The plot chugs along predictably to an ending that doesn’t surprise at all.
Yet, as I said, this film has its wonderful comic moments. In fact, what may be the best scene comes fairly early. When Bullock announces her intent to marry Reynolds, he has had no time to prepare. It hits him by surprise. And his reaction shots are perfect. He knows that everyone is in on something, and that he must cover as best he can. Yet he also has a glimmer of the ridiculous notion Bullock has just tossed on him…that they are in love and engaged. He’s mortified, but wants to be professional. He wants to deny it, but instinct tells him not to thwart his terrifying boss. I can’t adequately describe it…somehow, Reynolds had a moment heretofore unachieved by him as a performer. It’s enough to make you like his character from that point on.
Other moments nearly as good pop up from time to time. When the two have an unwanted “nude collision.” A silly incident with Bullock, the dog, an eagle and a cell phone!
The movie has the required “serious” moments too, such as when we discover why Bullock is so uptight and unfriendly. These scenes only work because the two stars have earned our goodwill in the comedic scenes…otherwise the somber moments would be unbearable.
The supporting cast is mostly window-dressing. Poor Mary Steenburgen, who is a great actress, is relegated yet again to an unfunny role as “mother.” Craig T. Nelson looks like a coach gone to seed, and isn’t very happy about it, as “father.” Malin Ackerman (WATCHMEN) has a thankless role as a former girlfriend. Oscar Nunez (TV’s “The Office”) shows up in a crazy role (I won’t spoil what it is) that gets some laughs, but in tone, belongs to another film. But the remarkable Betty White is there to shake things up as Reynolds’ grandmother. She’s playing a character too over-the-top to be convincing…but she does it with such comic verve that you can’t help but like her. She’s 87 years old (doesn’t look it at all) and has not lost one moment of her comic timing. Whoever had the idea to cast her should get 25% of the profits of this film! (On the other end of the spectrum is Denis O’Hare, usually a reliable character actor in both dramas and comedies, who shows up as the suspicious INS agent…and brings a tin ear to his dialogue that makes virtually every utterance supremely unfunny. He’s trying to make a part that doesn’t actually have any laughs into something it is not.)
It was amusing that the movie takes place mostly in Alaska. It was certainly a beautiful location, but you have to think that the driving decision behind that somehow relates to the attention Sarah Palin brought to the state. Can’t you just see a bunch of “suits” patting themselves on the back for their timeliness?
In the end, THE PROPOSAL is a predictable romantic comedy. I enjoyed myself, and I can even envision watching the film again some day on DVD with my daughter and her friends, perhaps. It doesn’t make me put Reynolds on my list of favorites…but he sure scored a lot of points with me. Bullock gets a reprieve. Betty White gets an MVP award. And I got to laugh a lot more than I would have expected. I think for the cliché heavy genre that it’s in…I must actually give the film 4 stars!!
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