The Proposal (2009) dir. Anne Fletcher
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Bullock, Craig T. Nelson, Mary Steenbergen, Betty White
By Alan Bacchus
Didn’t this film just come out in the theatres? Well it’s on DVD/Blu-Ray now with one of the shortest DVD holdback periods for a successful Hollywood picture in a while. I was curious when I saw Ryan Reynolds hosting Saturday Night Live last week. Was he hawking ‘The Proposal?’ or “X-Men: Origins” or both? In any case it proved to be one of the better episodes in a while. Reynolds managed to surmount the trapping of celebs going on SNL and using only their likeness and mere presence to generate passive mocking gags.
The fact is Reynolds is a natural comedian, a Jack Lemmon-type, the handsome but affable bachelor, not afraid to muck himself up for comedy. His great sense of physical space and comic timing often overshadowed by his hearty good looks.
In ‘The Proposal’, there’s very little to grab onto, a film based on the wildly absurd contrivance of a lowly ladder-climbing assistant blackmailed into marrying his boss in order to keep her in the country and save his job. And so, Reynolds’ presence in ‘The Proposal’ single-handedly makes this picture palatable and even enjoyable at times.
Reynolds plays Andrew Paxton, the dedicated but frustrated wannabe book editor who works as an executive assistant to a high-class bitchy Senior Editor Margaret Tate. As Tate, Sandra Bullock sheds her perkiness, for the ‘Devil Wears Prada’ skin, essentially another recycling ‘Anna Wintour’ super-bitch character established by Meryl Streep. The set-up is a shamelessly contrived arbitrary conflict - Tate suddenly finds her immigration status expired and about to be sent back to Canada. As she’s been given the news, she concocts a ruse that she’s engaged to none other than her assistant. Andrew is caught off guard but plays along for fear of losing his job. The deception goes so far that Andrew find himself and his faux fiancé visiting his family in his home town in Alaska to appease the doubting immigration officers.
Once in Alaska Andrew is forced to lie to parents - Craig T, Nelson and Mary Steenburgen - who already resent his decision to chase the fast paced big city life instead of the rural family business in Alaska. A former girlfriend whom he left back home to pursue his career is resurrected causing Andrew much confusion between the life he wants and the life he’s left back home.
We know Andrew and Margaret are meant to be together, just by the very nature that a) Bullock and Reynolds are the stars and b) they’re the two best looking people in the film. Well, actually Malin Akerman has the role of the former girlfriend, which did throw a wrench into my perceived expectations for a brief moment
The plot contrivances required a leap in logic as long those in say, ‘Bride Wars’, or ’21 Dresses’, or ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’. Reynolds who is well into his 30’s as the Vince character to Sandra Bullock’s Ari Gold, or the Anne Hathaway character to Meryl Streep in ‘Devil Wears Prada’ is like a square peg being fit into a round hole. And the romance which emerges with haste between the two makes no sense whatsoever (other than for the reasons above), which is why Reynolds’ ability to make us forget this huge leap of faith is miraculous. We don’t really care about the plausibility of the set up as long as Reynolds looks and acts charming and sells all the gags in the script. Which he does.
Charm and screen presence goes a long way in cinema and the film made $162million at the U.S. box office. I hope Reynolds got paid a lot of money because without him the movie bombs.
'The Proposal' is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment