July 6, 2009

Movie Review: The Proposal

theproposal1_largeNot to be confused with the 2005 Aussie western The Proposition (which I did for some reason, I know, silly me), this 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 instead of the director of the director of the oft-delayed The Road. So, it is safe to say the movies have no real connection, and I am glad, could you imagine Ray Winstone as a romantic lead? Me neither. Of course, I could also not 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. Anyone who is anyone knows that any romantic situation worth its salt is also ripe for comedy. So, this genre has got to be considered one of the most familiar to anyone who enjoys the cinema. Because of this familiarity, pretty much every situation has been used over and over and over again, making anyone who works within the genre will either need to work very hard to make their take 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 bad.

proposal04The 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 of your time by taking your standard romantic comedy formula and 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 for. Trouble begins when Margaret is called to her boss's office, where she learns she is to be deported for an expired work visa to her Canadian home. 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 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.

proposal11In the wrong hands, this story could definitely turned into a slog in the wrong hands. Fortunately, the team behind The Proposal now 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 the case of this movie, 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. Likewise, Bullock does a fine job of appearing imposing at work only to have her shell cracked when faced with the family she never had.

proposal01While 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 probably deserves to be. There are the big, broad moments that make everyone laugh, such as the wet and naked encounter, the strip show, and the goofy dance in the woods, and they work just fine. These are the scenes that get people in the door and ensure they have not yet fallen asleep.

There are two threads which threaten the lighthearted base, one for each of the leads. With Reynolds' Andrew we learn of tensions between father and son. The disagreement is never right out in the open and is dealt with a nice subtlety that plays well of of the comedic segments. The interaction between Ryan Reynolds and Craig T. Nelson as his father works very well and comes off as genuine. As for Bullock, we watch her interact with Betty White's Grammy and Mary Steenburgen as Andrew's mother. This brings feelings of her past to light, having lost her family at an early age she never had a family. Sandra Bullock plays this well as we see Margaret begin to show some cracks in her tough exterior.

Bottomline. Overall, this is a delightful trifle of a movie that will quickly be forgotten a short way down the road. It will provide 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. I find the movie hard not to like, while also recognizing how easily forgettable it is.

Mildly Entertaining.
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