It’s been a while since we’ve had a new Sandra Bullock movie, so The Proposal will likely be welcomed just for that. That it takes Bullock in a slightly different direction than usual may make it seem fresher than it is – and giving her Ryan Reynolds to play off/with could be considered a stroke of genius.
The plot – high powered publishing executive Margaret Tate [Bullock] is about to be deported back home to Canada [!] when she springs a bombshell on her bosses by announcing that she and her executive assistant, Andrew Paxton [Reynolds] are getting married. The two then zip off to Sitka, Alaska to help celebrate his grandmother’s ninetieth birthday – and announce their engagement. The engagement tickles Gammy Annie [Betty White, conducting a master class in scene stealing] and Andrew’s mom, Grace [Mary Steenburgen] but not his father, Joe [Craig T. Nelson], or, at first, his ex, Gertrude [Malin Ackerman]. Chaos ensues.
The Proposal is light summer fare – so light that it requires Steenburgen and Nelson’s grounding performance to keep it from fluttering away. Nelson, in particular, is deeply affecting as the one person who doesn’t buy Margaret and Andrew’s engagement – and has been deeply hurt by Andrew’s decision to forsake the family empire for a desk job in New York.
Bullock is at her best here – she’s not afraid to let us see the beginnings of laugh lines and crow’s feet and, as a result, she seems to have grown into her face, and that gives her performance added spark. She makes Margaret’s sudden changes believable – something that is absolutely essential for the film to work.
Reynolds may not be the next Cary Grant – or even Hugh Grant – but he shares some crucial talents with both: there is no one in his generation who does a more convincing, or funnier, slow burn. In fact, one of his biggest strengths is that he listens and reacts in such a way that we find ourselves believing in him even when the plot takes turns that might otherwise be clichéd.
Anne Fletcher [27 Dresses] takes Peter Chiarelli’s frothy script and her talented cast and combines them into a slight, fizzy concoction that has the ability to generate laughter in places where it probably shouldn’t. The Proposal is a slight, fluffy entertainment that requires little work on the part of its audience. It has enough memorable moments that it won’t completely fade from your memory the instant you leave the theater [like the dog and eagle bit], so it’s not completely throwaway. In short, then, The Proposal is good natured fun and a very viable alternative to the summer’s tentpole action flicks.
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