The modern Hollywood romantic comedy can be made only so many ways. The filmmakers behind The Proposal didn’t even try to find a new one. And the fact that it works anyway says everything about the virtues of simple execution.
It doesn’t take an encyclopedic knowledge
of film history to recognize that
The Proposal is pretty much a wholesale
retread of the 1990 Andie MacDowell/Gerard Depardieu vehicle Green Card.
This time around, Canadian book editor
and much-loathed boss Margaret Tate
(Sandra Bullock) is in danger of losing
her visa and her job; her long-time, long-suffering
assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan
Reynolds) becomes a prime candidate
for an engagement-then-marriage of convenience.
INS investigators will eventually
test their story of true love, but first
they’ll have to pass the test of a long
weekend with Andrew’s family in Alaska.
The setting provides a few fish-out-of-water variables to the tried-and-true
set-up of two people pretending to be
in love who then fall in love for real.
Bullock gets to look silly wandering
through the streets of Sitka in stiletto
heels, or letting what passes for a local
exotic dancer (Oscar Nuñez) gyrate all
over her. Those who fear the sight of new
ground being broken can attend safely.
The old ground, however, proves surprisingly
comfortable. Reynolds—who for
most of his career has radiated smugness—does genuinely likeable work as a
guy with plenty of insecurity issues to work
through, while also biting off some of the
script’s sharpest lines. Bullock finds the
sympathetic core of her flinty character,
re-discovering the appeal of a decade ago.
Even Betty White does nice things with
the usually thankless role of the wacky
granny. It’s funnier and more charming
than it seems to have any right to be.
The Proposal is assured enough when
it’s low-key that the ridiculous stuff—like
an eagle kidnapping a puppy, or Bullock
cutting loose with a dance around a bonfire—feels even more ridiculous. Give a
familiar recipe some quality ingredients,
and sometimes that’s all you need.
Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Betty White