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· 108 minutes
Directed by Anne Fletcher
Written by Peter Chiarelli
· Ryan Reynolds
· Sandra Bullock
· Betty White
· Mary Steenburgen
It's the definition of a hackneyed premise. An immigrant desperate to stay in the country enters into a sham marriage in order to pull a fast one on the government. Good movies, bad movies and trite sitcoms have bounced this premise around for years. Thus, the new comedy The Proposal doesn't exactly excite those looking for some original laughs.
Oh how I love to be surprised. Yes, the premise is hackneyed beyond belief, but with talented stars and a smart director, The Proposal turns this cliched premise into a wonderfully fresh and funny comic romance.
Sandra Bullock stars in The Proposal in the role that is traditionally given to a man, a high powered New York executive. She is Margaret a publishing magnate hated and feared by her subordinates. Ryan Reynolds is Andrew her desperately put upon assistant anointed with the ugly tasks of Margaret's everyday punching bag.
Margaret happens to be Canadian and in the country on a visa. She has however, put off renewing her visa so often that she has accidentally allowed it to expire and she is about to be deported. That is when she gets the idea, she will just tell the boss's and the American government that she is in love and indeed marrying Andrew.
For his part, Andrew is desperate for a raise and a promotion and this is just the opportunity. Agree to marry Margaret, she stays in the country and he gets what he wants. It's also quite motivating that if she goes, he likely gets fired. To convince the government they are a real couple they agree to travel to Alaska for a weekend of meeting all of Andrew's relatives including his mother (Mary Steenburgen), father (Craig T. Nelson) and Gammy (Betty White).
If from the above description you cannot figure out that the hard hearted exec will be won over by the wacky Alaska clan, then you are just not trying. However, what's great is how she is won over and how well she fights it off... for a little while anyway. Director Anne Fletcher, who charmed her way through the equally formula charmer 27 Dresses last year, deftly works the typical into something unexpected and terrifically funny.
Take for instance Margaret's secret love of rap music or the clever use of the great Betty White not for awkward laughs but honest warm, unexpected belly laughs. A character like White's Gammy would, in a lesser movie, be used to score cheap points with inappropriate humor oddly sexual asides. There are some entendres sent Gammy's way and batted right back, but White is so winning that things never enter that uncanny valley of ungainly vulgarity.
White is a scene stealer but even she loses a couple scenes to one Oscar Nunez. Best known for his quiet, dignified gay man on TV's The Office, Nunez plays Ramone a ubiquitous presence in the lives of Andrew's family who takes an immediate liking to Margaret and delights in shocking her with his ability to be seemingly everywhere.
As for the leads, Bullock hasn't been this good since While You Were Sleeping yet the characters couldn't be more different. Where Sleeping's heroine was all cuddly insecurity, Margaret is a real ballbuster. Blustery and bossy with a steely manner concealing an honest slightly wounded soul, Bullock's Margaret is the rare romantic heroine whose inner life fuels her outward action.
The care taken to give life to Margaret beyond the plot and the obvious character type is what sets a movie like The Proposal apart from other formula romances that rely on the premise to invent the character. The same could be said of Reynolds' Andrew whose daddy issues and innate good nature fuel his actions toward Margaret and make believable the idea that he could in the course of a plot that unfolds in three days, fall for Margaret in ways that make us want them together.
Even with its trite premise The Proposal is fresh, funny and joyous. Sandra Bullock is the Sandra Bullock she was always supposed to be before bad choices like Miss Congeniality 2 and a couple ugly looking thrillers knocked off of stardom's path. Ryan Reynolds is only a box office hit away from establishing his star presence. With last year's exceptional Definitely Maybe and now The Proposal his chops are unquestionable.
The Proposal may be the best romantic comedy of the year.