Movie Review: The Proposal
By Matthew Huntley
June 26, 2009
A movie like The Proposal doesn't require viewers to analyze or even believe in its plot. It's another one of those assembly line romantic comedies that gives away everything in the trailer and/or opening 15 minutes, whichever you see first. With such a basic and routine formula, we become more concerned with whether the movie will still find a way to be entertaining, the characters will be halfway intelligent and likable, and the story won't become too idiotic or predictable to bear. Luckily, they all find a way.
Sandra Bullock stars as Margaret Tate, the editor-in-chief of a high-profile publishing company in New York City. Around the office, she has a reputation of being an evil witch. Anyone who works in the corporate world will appreciate how Margaret's subordinates use their inter-office messaging system to warn each other of when "the witch is on her broom."
Right away, the movie loses some credibility because it's almost impossible to buy Sandra Bullock, of all actresses, as someone so mean. This isn't a jab at Bullock's acting ability, but I seriously doubt she has a mean bone in her body. It's practically impossible for her to even look mean. But she tries her best and you can tell she has fun with the role, even if that aspect of her character is less than convincing.
Margaret runs into a problem when her boss tells her she's being deported back to Canada because her visa has expired. She immediately thinks up a plan to blackmail her male secretary, Andrew (Ryan Reynolds), who has his own aspirations to become an editor and writer. She tells him if he wants to keep his job, he has to marry her so she can obtain U.S. citizenship, not that he doesn't have a few provisos of his own. The problem is they must convince the immigration office they're actually a couple, which means spending the weekend together in Alaska where Andrew's family lives, including his mother (Mary Steenburgen), father (Craig T. Nelson) and Gammy (Betty White).
Because the plot requires them to, Andrew's family falls for the idea he's actually engaged to the same woman he's been complaining about all these years. Only one of the characters displays the slightest shred of doubt and believes something is up. It's silly to think anyone would ever believe Margaret and Andrew are a real couple, let alone their story of how he proposed to her. If it weren't for the charm and comic timing of Bullock and Reynolds, such antics would come across as rather insulting, but the two leads make it work and we sort of enjoy watching this fluff progress toward its inevitable conclusion.
As familiar as it was, I came to like the back and forth jabs between Bullock and Reynolds, the strange looks from Mary Steenburgen and Betty White (who's still got a lot of energy by the way) and some of the comic situations, including the movie's funniest scene when Margaret joins Gammy in the middle of a tribal chant and adds a new spin of her own. At first, you think this scene would have been better left on the cutting room floor, but it actually contains a hilarious payoff.
There are also some touching moments in the movie, as when Margaret opens up to Andrew about who she really is and when Andrew comforts her after she realizes what they're doing is potentially hurtful to Andrew's family. I only wish the director, Anne Fletcher, chose to leave out the more conventional fish-out-of-water scenes, as when Margaret is unable to climb down a ladder or ride a bike by herself. I also didn't think the strip club scene was particularly funny. It's more awkward because Bullock herself looks uncomfortable.
All in all, The Proposal is worthy of a positive review because it's mindless fun and there are enough funny scenes and one-liners that made me laugh out loud. It also helps the characters are sweet and good-hearted. But while it's decent and tolerable, I'd say you're better off renting this one because it's the type of movie you'll want to watch while doing something more constructive, like putting together furniture. I guess that's sort of the charm of romantic comedies - many of them don't require your full attention, but they still put a smile on your face when you glance over at them.