Not to be confused with the 2005 Aussie western The Proposition (which I did for some reason, I know, silly me), the 2009 romantic comedy The Proposal is a completely different beast. For one thing, this movie stars Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds instead of Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone, for another you have the director of 27 Dresses (Anne Fletcher) instead of the director of the oft-delayed The Road (John Hillcoat). So, it is safe to say the movies have no real connection, and I am glad about that, can you imagine Ray Winstone as a romantic lead? Me neither. Of course, I also cannot imagine Reynolds and Bullock as the leads in a western, at least not a serious one.
The romantic comedy has been a staple of the cinema for as long as I can remember. Everyone knows that any romantic situation worth its salt is also ripe for comedy. Hollywood has certainly spotted that and consequently puts out romantic comedies with regularity. This means that almost every romantic comedy situation has been used over and over and over again and that anyone who takes a job on a romantic comedy will either need to work very hard to make their version stand out, do a very good job of using the cliches to their advantage, or be prepared to be ignored. How does The Proposal fare? Not too badly.
The Proposal is not the sort of film that is going to push boundaries, so do not expect this movie to blow you away. That said, it does all the right things and proves itself worthy, keeping your attention even though it is pretty easy to guess where the story is going.
Let's set the stage. Ryan Reynolds is Andrew Paxton, an aspiring book editor currently working as executive assistant to one of the most demanding and fear-inducing editors in the business. Sandra Bullock is Margaret Tate, the hard-nosed chief editor whose mere approach is enough to send the entire office into a frenzy of activity to ensure they are not noticed. She also happens to be editor for whom Andrew works. Trouble begins when Margaret is called to her boss's office, where she learns she is to be deported to Canada due to an expired work visa. This cannot be, how will she be able to keep her nose to the grindstone if she isn't in the office and doesn't have her job? The solution looks to be a simple one – a sham marriage to her assistant, followed by a quickie divorce.
Caught off guard, Andrew is not quite sure how to respond, but decides to go along with the plan. Their troubles are further complicated by an INS officer who is intent on uncovering their deception. On top of that, the upcoming weekend brings with it a trip to visit Andrew's family and celebrate his Grammy's 90th birthday. This leads to all sorts of wacky fun as they attempt to deceive the family and avoid getting caught while also coming face to face with a new world of feelings they never saw before.
In the wrong hands, this story could definitely turned into a slog.. Fortunately, the team behind The Proposal knows how to turn a line and make a flat tale into something worth your while. Still, it is not a great movie, so keep your hopes in check.
What is it that makes it work at all? In this case, it is all about the cast. Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock both bring charismatic, likable presences to the screen. They have a way of drawing your attention, and they have a way of bringing just the right tone to a performance, especially in this particular genre.
The screenplay, the first from Peter Chiarelli, has some pretty snappy dialogue, particularly for Ryan Reynolds whose sarcastic approach works wonders for the picture. Similarly, Bullock does a fine job of appearing imposing at work only to have her shell cracked when faced with the family she has never had.
While the centerpiece of the story is the faux-engagement, there are moments that lurk around the edges that help round the film out and actually make the movie better than it would otherwise be. There are the big, broad moments that make everyone laugh, such as a wet and naked encounter, a strip show, and a goofy dance in the woods, and they work just fine. These are the scenes that get people in the door and ensure they don't fall asleep in their seats.
There are, however, also two threads which threaten the lighthearted base, one for each of the leads. With Reynolds' Andrew we learn of tensions between him and his father. The disagreement is never right out in the open and the subtlety plays out well in the comedic segments. The interaction between Ryan Reynolds and Craig T. Nelson as his father works very well, it comes off as quite genuine. As for Bullock, we watch her interact with Betty White's Grammy and Andrew's mother (Mary Steenburgen). These encounters bring up feelings of her past and the family she lost at an early age. Sandra Bullock plays this story well and help show the cracks in Margaret's tough exterior.
Bottomline. Overall, this is a delightful trifle of a movie that will quickly be forgotten down the road. It provides momentary escape with stars that we like and scenes that will make you laugh. It has a few moments that threaten deep thoughts, but they are fleeting. The movie is hard not to like while watching it, but after the credits roll it will not be remembered for long.