A recent trend has emerged in romantic comedies. Rather than tell a simple love story, most films in the genre try to take it one step further and create situations that are highly implausible. Last year's What Happens in Vegas followed two people who got hitched in a drunken stupor, won millions of dollars and were then sentenced by a judge to "six months hard marriage." Earlier this year, Bride Wars took two best friends whose wedding dates were mixed up and accidentally scheduled on the same day in the same place, forcing one to choose a new wedding site, creating a rivalry between the two. The latest movie to follow this trend is The Proposal, but unlike those aforementioned debacles, this one takes its unconvincing premise and twists it into a tolerable time waster, despite its many problems.
The absurdity in question this time sees Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) about to be deported back to Canada because her Visa has been voided. This means that she wouldn't be able to work for an American company, which would strip her of her job as editor that she worked so hard for. Her only option is to blackmail her assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) into marrying her to make her citizenship official and eliminate the threat of deportation. Unfortunately, the INS is onto their game and they are forced to act like a real couple to avoid suspicion. To do this, they take a trip to see Andrew's family in Alaska and try to keep the ruse going long enough for their plan to work.
The Proposal takes the tired subject matter of two people reluctantly falling in love despite their previous hatred for one another, ties it into a ridiculous story and actually manages not to fall flat on its face. Here's why. Contrary to a movie like What Happens in Vegas, the characters in this film aren't detestable. That movie portrayed two terrible people playing mean spirited pranks and jokes on each other and it wasn't fun to watch. With such reprehensible characters, it was hard to root for them or care about what happens, but the characters in The Proposal aren't repulsive human beings, but rather flawed individuals with problems that explain why they sometimes act the way they do. Margaret has had a surprisingly tough life. Her parents died when she was young and she's been on her own as long as she can remember. She never had a family to love and care for her, which explains a lot of her venomous ways and is a testament to how well thought out the characters were. Yes, Margaret and Andrew fight a lot, but it never feels like it's being mean spirited just for the sake of it. The malice from each character comes from the frustration they have about their personal lives.
Be that as it may, the story is still a mess, ranging from the ludicrous setup to the unnecessary side story involving Andrew's daddy issues. Throughout the movie, Andrew's father, played by Craig T. Nelson, pressures him into taking up the family business in Alaska, causing a constant argument over Andrew's desire to instead work as an editor in New York. What could have worked as another layer to these otherwise well written characters works more as uninteresting filler that takes up more than its fair share of screen time, but goes nowhere, with the conflict quickly resolving because the film was running out of leeway.
Given the nature of the situation, much of the humor revolved around awkward exchanges, which isn't always funny and fell flat too many times, mostly from the likes of Sandra Bullock, whose character is too bitchy and annoying to be funny. Every joke that hits is from the comedically talented and underrated Ryan Reynolds, who is excellent in this type of role and really won me over with his alluring charisma and spot on comedic timing. Whereas Bullock seemed to be trying too hard, with over the top antics that didn't sit well with the tone of the film, Reynolds' more down to earth approach and subtle delivery complimented the screenplay and made up for Bullock's lackluster witticism.
Although the two leads have good chemistry together, which makes the more dramatic moments work well, the film hits too many roadblocks along the way, with long stretches of humorless drivel and loony plot points (wait until you see Betty White dancing around a campfire and chanting incoherent nonsense), and it simply doesn't have enough to sustain it all the way through. The Proposal was a pretty enjoyable film and it's a close call, but it just has too many problems to warrant a recommendation.
The Proposal receives 2.5/5