Recently, Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) has done a flurry of interviews in which she recounts a conversation she had with a studio exec who asked her to change the protagonist of a script she wrote from a woman to a man, claiming that the studio didn’t want to make movies with female leads anymore because “women don’t go to the movies.” Since he said “but don’t quote me on that,” she’s telling everyone. Vardalos encourages women to put their money where their mouths are and prove that Mama Mia, Sex and the City, etc. are not “flukes” by going to see movies with female leads, like her recent movie, My Life in Ruins, or Sandra Bullock’s The Proposal. So, when faced with the decision of whether to see Transformers or The Proposal, I chose the latter, with best regards to Shia LaBeouf.
The Proposal is about Margaret Tate (Bullock), the editor-in-chief of a big publishing firm who is facing deportation back to Canada. As a last-ditch effort to save her career and her life in New York City, she forces her assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), to marry her, threatening to destroy his career if he doesn’t. Unfortunately, her friendly INS agent smells fraud and ensures the pair that he will find their scheme out. Thus, they must fly to Alaska for a weekend with Paxton’s family in order to prove their true love. Of course, shenanigans follow.
The Proposal is basically the classic romantic comedy plot that dates back to before Shakespeare. Boy and girl meet and begin a relationship under some sort of false pretenses. Sometimes, like in The Proposal, they even despise each other. They take a necessary trip to a family home where the boy/girl falls in love with his/her pretend mate’s family. The truth comes out just in time for the boy and girl to realize just how much they love each other. I’m assuming I didn’t ruin the ending on that one. Sorry if I did. The thing is though, that this clichéd plot felt fresh to me in The Proposal. The personal stakes in this movie are higher than usual. Both characters face losing their careers and hurting people they love and Margaret is so afraid of being vulnerable that the whole idea that girl would fall for boy is itself a pretty heavy risk. It was refreshing that a movie so similar to How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (for example) could actually convince me that the leads falling in love mattered.
I found the whole immigration spin on the story very interesting. With all the talk about immigration during the election, I thought there was going to be a political point in the movie somewhere. I could not really find one, but as much as I paid attention, I did notice some interesting little comments on American perceptions of who and what an immigrant is.
Sandra Bullock was fabulous as Margaret Tate. About fifteen minutes into the movie I had to remind myself that normally she plays nice, America’s Sweetheart-type characters. Margaret is mean, mean, mean and Bullock pulls the ice-cold caricature of a thick-skinned editor off seamlessly. Then, when the façade begins to crack she is able to show her character’s hidden vulnerability without it feeling like an easy transformation. Bullock makes Margaret harsh and relatable and in the end felt very real.
Ryan Reynolds, poised to be the next big leading man, was adorable as Andrew Paxton, without falling back on the stereotypes of the genre. Andrew actually has problems that a normal person has. Reynold’s acting easily made Andrew feel like someone I could have gone to school with. As the romantic interest in a movie largely driven by Bullock, Reynolds held his own and brought a very down-to-earth charm and dimension to the role.
Sure, at its bare bones The Proposal is your typical formulaic rom-com, but the authenticity of the characters, the whole immigration scenario, and plenty of giggle-worthy moments made it a romantic comedy I really liked. Compared to all movies, I rate The Proposal 3 stars; compared to other romantic comedies, an enthusiastic 4 stars.
The Proposal runs 108 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and language. It was written by Pete Chiarelli and directed by Anne Fletcher.
There’s something familiar about The Proposal. If you enjoyed this movie, I recommend renting While You Were Sleeping, Bullock’s 1995 movie about accidentally pretending to be engaged to a man in a coma and really falling in love with his brother (Bill Pullman). It’s cute and quirky and, even though you’ve probably seen it already, worth a re-visit.