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Movie Review: The Proposal

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Whenever I have a meeting to attend, I carry with me a little card called “B.S. Bingo.” On it is a grid of empty, meaningless, overused phrases in business-speak. I've found it very handy in getting through many a seminar in which speakers blather on about “thinking outside the box,” “paradigm shifts,” “synergy,” and “at the end of the day.”

With that in mind, I am now going to carry with me the Rom-Com Bingo™ card. On it, I will scatter about a number of tired tropes on which the genre relies so heavily. It would have made suffering through The Proposal much easier. (And yes, all of these below are contained in said film.)

The successful business woman as shrew: In The Proposal, Sandra Bullock plays Margaret Tate, a successful editor for a Boston publishing company. How do we know she's a success? She treats everyone beneath her like dirt and is often mocked for having no social skills whatsoever.

The sassy senior: Apparently, there is nothing more amusing than to see an elderly person talk dirty. Here, Betty White playing a sex-centric grandmother does the honors.

Ornery family pets: Whether it's cats going potty or dogs humping legs, the furry family members are often tossed into the mix to generate a guffaw or two. A little yippy powder-puff pooch is in danger of becoming eagle food here. The only time this musty gimmick has worked is the Irish setter in Funny Farm which takes off and never comes back.

You can take the girl (boy) out of the city…: Oh, the hilarity that ensues when introducing uptight city folk to good, old-fashioned, country-livin' stereotypes. And while Ryan Reynolds' character, Andrew Paxton, comes from deep in the heart of Alaska, it's a shock The Proposal does not bring Margaret out on a moose hunt.

Opposites attract: One's the pent-up aggressor, the other the more laid back, rational sort, but wouldn't you know it, they can find common ground… at least in about 8,237 romantic movies, including this one, they can. Bullock's Tate is tense enough to bounce quarters off of, whereas Reynolds' Paxton is loved by all, is sensible, and is guilty only of loving too much.

The inner wild child/dork: Be it braces, a weight problem, a torrid affair or fashion casualty, nothing is easier in romantic comedies than bringing someone down a notch or two with a skeleton in the closet. Here, it is an admission of the Rob Base classic "It Takes Two" by Tate.

Running on empty: As if a light bulb appears over the head of one of the leads, he/she dashes after the significant other at the conclusion to profess true love. This usually occurs after a misunderstanding in which one feels dejected/jealous of the fragile relationship.

The awkward “night out”: In an attempt to blend, one of the leads heads out with family/friends of the other for a night of bonding. Things never end well. In The Proposal, the gals all congregate at the local tavern, which apparently doubles as a male strip club, in which an overweight, middle-aged waiter shoves his junk in Margaret's face.

Awkward toasts: The leads or their friends are guilty of TMI in a public confession that causes an audience to sit in stunned silence. Both leads here are goaded to share their first encounter in a labored scene that would have been so much better if both merely fibbed that they were drunk and the bar was closing.

This list is by no means complete, but those are the ones to be found in the strictly by-the-numbers effort here. Feel free to add your own squares to the bingo card with items like:

  • The bitter best friends
  • The temporary break-up
  • The makeover
  • Finding comfort in binging (this could include shopping, drinking or eating)
  • The realization (typically a music-only montage of loneliness from one of the leads)

You get the idea.

Oh, and by the way, bingo!

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