“The Proposal” is a nice reminder that not all romantic comedies have to crush our souls into a fine powder. If you have talented leads working from a script with sharp dialogue, then you can make for a fine date night flick. While it needs a slightly longer set-up, goes too mawkish in its third act, and relies too heavily on Betty White in the “wacky-granny” role, watching Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds snipe at each other is absolutely delightful and worth the price of admission.
Due to be deported back to Canada for violating the terms of her visa, vicious publishing editor Margaret Tate (Bullock) quickly decides to wed her hapless, long-suffering assistant Andrew (Reynolds) so she can keep her job in the US and in exchange, Andrew gets a promotion to editor. A preposterously aggressive Homeland Security agent (Denis O’Hare) threatens their ruse and so the two must travel to Andrew’s parents home in Alaska for his grandmother’s (White) birthday celebration and learn about each other so that they can pass the examination or else she’ll be deported and he’ll go to jail. When Margaret and Andrew are at each other’s mercy is when the fun really starts. Once they start falling for each other, the fun kind of abates.
Sandra Bullock has become one of the queens* of romantic comedy, but she has a masculine quality that sets her apart from her peers. I don’t mean that in terms of looks, but she conveys a domineering strength that sets her apart and makes her more interesting than other doe-eyed damsels. But Bullock knows how to keep that masculinity from overtaking her feminine side and that balance has served her well in the past and continues to do so in “The Proposal”. The movie does play up her “fish-out-of-water” aspect once she lands in Alaska, but while she’s ruling the business world and making Andrew’s life hell, we still like her and she understands that her character is supposed to be overly-guarded, not predatory.
But she’s only one side of the equation. I hate that Ryan Reynolds has to be so attractive AND funny. It’s not fair.** And yet, as always, I am charmed by Reynolds who, despite his impressive physique, is adorably pathetic when getting bossed around by Bullock and yet, once they make their bargain, he lets his character revel in three years of pent-up aggression towards his abusive boss without ever letting the character go cruel or malicious. It’s in this back-and-forth between Bullock and Reynolds where the two actors know each other’s comic timing and physical idiosyncrasies that “The Proposal” becomes infinitely enjoyable.
Sadly, the film doesn’t really take the time it should in the first act to really let us enjoy their interplay. It does the bare minimum in setting up the premise and a sketch of their current dynamic. Andrew’s revenge would be so much more rewarding if we saw a brief montage of his three years as Margaret’s assistant and it would also grant us a better look at Margaret’s character.
The film has the opposite problem in the third act where the film continues to hammer us over the head that these characters have fallen in LOVE. Perhaps the filmmakers were afraid that audiences wouldn’t believe that two people who felt nothing for each other for three years would fall in love in three days but going overboard with the sentiment doesn’t help the point as much as it drains the movie of humor.
Despite its rushed opening and rocky finish, “The Proposal” is a romantic comedy that doesn’t break any new ground but works well as a date film because of Bullock and Reynolds’ terrific performances. It is ultimately “just another rom-com” but it’s certainly not a bad one.
Rating —– B minus
*Can there be more than one queen? I think so. I think in the Kingdom of RomCom, their can be multiple queens.
**I’m still sending hate mail to Seth Rogen telling him to put the weight back on, “Green Hornet” be damned.