Comedy and Sexual Tension Galore
Marriage of convenience, a contrivance that steers the plot of The Proposal, is often used in romance novels. In fact, many of the devices required by romance writers are found in this movie, but Sandra Bullock and co-star Ryan Reynolds make them work. The Proposal ends up being delightfully funny.
Margaret Tate (Bullock), a cold and demanding New York book editor, is feared by her employees. They even send an email around the office to let everyone know when she arrives each morning. Margaret’s assistant, Andrew Paxton (Reynolds), realizes his boss is one note -- unrelenting -- but he has his eye on a prize and puts up with her demands. Andrew wants to be an editor and also has a manuscript he hopes Margaret will publish.
Within minutes of her arrival one morning, Margaret is summoned to her boss’ office and insists Andrew accompany her. Informed she’s being deported back to Canada because she didn’t re-file papers, Margaret thinks faster than an editor can red-line a page and rebounds with, “but we’re getting married, aren’t we?” as she stares at Andrew.
Like a trained puppy, Andrew immediately answers yes. However, meetings with immigration officials scare him into finally standing on own his own two feet. Insisting Margaret get on her knees to propose, he also demands to be promoted to an editor and that the marriage take place in his home town of Sitka, Alaska, the next weekend. That’s because it’s his Grammy Annie’s (Betty White) 90th birthday, a celebration Margaret refused to let Andrew attend.
The Alaskan trip brings about the metamorphosis of both Margaret and Andrew. Andrew must face his quirky but lovable family and come up with a good reason to his father (Craig T. Nelson) and mother (Mary Steenburgen) concerning why he’s suddenly marrying a woman they’ve never heard about. Margaret becomes a fish-out-of-water in a town where the Paxton’s own nearly every business. Smothered with wedding plans by Andrew’s mother and Grammy, Margaret finds her need to control everything slipping away. At first the chaos of the family seems almost too much to bear. Especially when she’s dragged to a bar and forced to go onstage with a barely-dressed entertainer (Oscar Nuńez), and then finds Grammy trying to find her boobs during a wedding-dress fitting.
Bullock fans have clamored for her to return to the screen since her last film, Premonition, in 2007. She has shown her ability to do physical comedy in so many of her films including Miss Congeniality (2000) and Practical Magic (1998), which fits in perfectly for the soon befuddled Margaret. But she can also play a serious role as exhibited in Crash (2004) and her amazing role in Hope Floats (1998). Bullock understands her workaholic character well and makes every moment of Margaret’s realization about her own life feel authentic.
“She’s really fun to play, because she’s in all of us,” Bullock said. “Margaret was written the way they usually write the male roles, which are usually the juiciest. They’re allowed to be complex, unattractive, crabby, difficult, fun and funny, which is not how female characters are usually written. Margaret doesn’t try and rectify any of the wrongs. She doesn’t apologize. She doesn’t feel like she has to make the world like her. She has a job to do, and she’s gonna get it done. And there’s a large part of me in that.”
In his almost 20 years on screen, Reynolds (Definitely Maybe, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) is finally being recognized as a leading man. With a personality that goes from taking orders to giving orders, having to butt heads with his must-know-everything father, and treading lightly to keep his goofy grandmother from ruining his plan, the role of Andrew is complex. Reynolds couldn’t be more perfect for this role. We’re sympathetic when he has to comply with Margaret’s demands, pleased when he thoughtfully handles their having to share the same bedroom at his parent’s home, and amused that his give-and-take banter with Margaret is witty and fitting. The instant chemistry between these two characters is played out cleverly through their battle of wills.
“Sandy and I’ve been friends for years -- it’s great working with your friend,” Reynolds said. “My experience in a comedy is that you shoot the film and then halfway through you start to understand what your chemistry is with your co-star and you wish you could go back and re-shoot all that you’ve already done. When you step on a set the first day and you already have that chemistry built in as Sandy and I did, you never experience that.”
The enormously funny Betty White (Bringing Down the House) adds another dimension of pleasure to this film. Without going over the top, she fits her mischievous role like a glove.
The Proposal is accentuated by Anne Fletcher’s (27 Dresses, Step Up) great direction, witty dialogue by first-time screenwriter Peter Chiarelli, and beautiful cinematography by Oliver Stapleton (Casanova). Production designer Nelson Coates worked magic while transforming picturesque sites in Massachusetts to look like Sitka, Alaska. His work paid off, for the scenery and landscapes come across so beautiful that many viewers will probably make vacation plans to visit Sitka.
Fans of Bullock can be thrilled she’s back. They should also be happy that comedy and sexual tension soar in The Proposal.
(Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated “PG-13” for sexual content, nudity and language.)
Review also posted at www.reviewexpress.com.