The Proposal (Review)

I don’t like Sandra Bullock. I don’t know exactly why, but some film I watched as a child made me dislike her strongly. I can no longer remember the film, but she was brash and abrasive in it. From my biased viewpoint, this seems to be her general demeanour. She, along with Julia Roberts, is an actress who I find intensely irritating. I’m aware that it is somewhat unfair to judge an actress’character on the strength of one character she played, but this awareness does not really mitigate the dislike. Even films that I should like are ruined by her presence.

As a result, I was initially reluctant to watch The Proposal. However, two things persuaded me: I was bored, and didn’t feel like anything heavier, and it also starred Ryan Reynolds. Ryan Reynolds, to me, is the opposite of Sandra Bullock. Even truly terrible films are redeemed by him – he’s just very likable. The Green Lantern film is all kinds of rubbish – it has racist stereotypes, Info-dumps, and somehow manages to make ‘create anything’ into a boring superpower. He makes
a fist and a toy car, displaying a lamentable lack of imagination.

But I like The Green Lantern – I think it’s worth watching, and I’d happily watch it again. I think this in defiance of logic and reason, solely because Ryan Reynolds seems like a great guy. He seems almost always to play an affable straight man, but there are glimpses of range and humour in his performances.

Hopefully, that sets the scene. One eye on something else, I sat down to watch The Proposal, a film containing one actor I hate and one I like. Would I hate it because of her? Would I love it because of him? Would the two forces balance, leaving me totally neutral? It was a truly thrilling situation.

The Proposal is about a brash, abrasive and emotionless book editor and her affable, long-suffering assistant. Bullock and Reynolds take the expected roles. Faced with an expired visa and deportation to Canada (which Americans always seem to see as an awful fate), the editor bullies and then bribes her assistant into marrying her in order to remain in the U.S. To convince the immigration office, they have to act as a real couple in a ways – beginning by visiting his family.

Obviously, this does not go well. She’s a harridan who needs to learn to love again, and he’s… fine, actually. The entire film consists of her opening up slowly (through different fish out of water scenarios – can’t swim on a boat, stand-offish in a strip club, hated by beloved family pet) and him remaining broadly the same – he starts of as a nice guy in a tough situation, and ends up as a nice guy in a tough situation who dislikes his boss less.

It’s an age-old plot – unlikely partners forced together discover that they do have one thing in common: love. The only switch up is that the shy vulnerable one and the heartless cruel one have swapped sides and sexes; Ryan Reynolds is now the nurturing one who teaches Sandra Bullock to love again.

The romance isn’t amazingly convincing – when the big romantic scene occurs, it feels as though it comes out of nowhere. Yes, they’ve warmed towards each other, but not to that extent. She’s now slightly less heartless, granted, but that doesn’t mean she’s gained his. The film seemed to be missing key segments, those that would have allowed the audience to believe in the romance. We get one rescuing scene, one awkward kiss scene, and one contrived nakedness scene – all vital
elements of this kind of plot, but all coming across as quite rushed and perfunctory.

Overall, the film needed to be longer – the plot needed mod development and a more satisfying resolution. Various scenes and characters could have been usefully developed without bloating the narrative at all. Subplots are introduced, situations are presented, but nothing really goes anywhere. The whole thing seems kind of rushed.

The film is set primarily in Alaska, seemingly just so the director could have the standard time lapse day-to-night-to-day shot, just without the sun going down at all. Instead, time speeds up while the sun dances across the sky, never quite dipping below the hills. Regardless, the setting is beautiful, though apparently, I am informed, almost entirely CGI. There are lots of boats and rickety little planes and wide, sweeping shots of snow-capped mountains.

In addition to its main stars, the film also features various other recognisable actors – Oscar Nunez (Oscar from The Office (US version)), and Mary Steenburgen (various places, most likely to be remembered as Avery’s mother in 30 Rock). Betty White makes an appearance, playing an insane old lady. She seems typecast into this now – she never just plays a normal grandmother. In Lake Placid, for example, she is a woman who feeds man-eating crocodiles. In this, she communes with the spirits through dancing.

There are moments of humour throughout the film – the final interview with an immigration officer, the perilous dance of lap dog and eagle. Some scenes are clearly meant of be overtly humorous, but otherwise it tends to be incidental moments that make you smile. I wouldn’t class it as a funny film, but it is as funny as rom-coms normally are: a little heavy-handed, but occasionally something
catches you.

The film is watchable – it passed a reasonably pleasant hour and a half. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t really love it either. I doubt I’ll watch it again – Ryan Reynolds neutralises his co-star, but the film is too brief, too shallow, to do much with its concept or characters, and it ends up just not being that satisfying. There are hints of a stronger film within The Proposal, but it never quite lives up to that promise.

Buy it here, or it’s on Netflix, which is where I watched it.

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