The Proposal makes little effort to have an original plot, but a few subtle twists and a perfect comedic pairing of two actors make all the difference. At its heart, the film is about an oddball couple and the numerous changes in their relationship over the course of the film. What starts as a strictly professional office dynamic suddenly gets drastically personal.
The Scary Boss and Her Devoted Assistant
Margaret (Sandra Bullock) is a publishing executive with the iciest demeanor. Her first entrance at work is reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly. Her assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) is desperate to be promoted to editor and to be published. He excels at anticipating her every need, seeming pathetic at times but never obsequious. Margaret is finally brought to her knees (literally at one point) when her work visa expires and she’s facing deportation. She tells the immediate lie, to save her job, that she plans on marrying Andrew (which he later grudgingly agrees to in exchange for his promotion). Under the threat of government investigation, she leaves with Andrew for a weekend back at his home–in Alaska–complete with Mom (Mary Steenburgen) and Dad (Craig T. Nelson). From there, the plot is obvious, but going through it is nonetheless quite enjoyable.
Older Actress Paired With a Younger Actor
There’s some good role reversal happening in The Proposal. The fact that Margaret is not only Andrew’s boss but a very scary and domineering one is not new territory. In fact, it’s hard to still consider it “role reversal.” However, the fact that Margaret is quite a bit older than Andrew is a refreshing decision for Hollywood. Bullock is, in reality, 12 years Reynolds’ senior. Never mind that Bullock is still young-looking and attractive–it’s a rare thing to see in a mainstream film. Even better is the film’s choice not to address it. Andrew’s grandmother (Betty White) has a throw-away line about “girl” not being the best way to refer to Margaret, but otherwise it’s unimportant. As it should be.
A Tired Story, but Enjoyable Actors
The important thing here are the performances. Bullock and Reynolds are both incredibly charismatic actors and the two have wonderful comedic chemistry. Both are masters of wry delivery and the film never treads near cutesy or insipid territory. It’s still predictable–it runs through a seemingly timed checklist of cliches–but it’s also more enjoyable that most films of this ilk. (It also doesn’t hurt that the film is set in Alaska–a gorgeous backdrop–though to be fair, the actual filming takes place in California and Massachusetts.)
Choosing the Evil You Know
Despite the weariness of knowing each move the film will make, it’s almost preferable to the few moments the film tries something different. It veers into a weird area more than once. First, there’s the surprising extreme nakedness of the two for the sake of “hilarity,” and then an altogether nearly-pointless scene in which Margaret finds Grandma in the woods chanting and must join in.
Trying to Rise Above the Material
Everyone knows what kind of movie The Proposal is. They know how incredibly obvious (almost) everything about it will be. It’s lucky for the film that it has two very-watchable stars (and judging by its strong opening weekend box office, many seem to think so), because that is absolutely the only reason to watch it. Reynolds and Bullock make even a stale plot enjoyable. They may not be testing their range, but they’re doing something they’re quite good at, and they do it very well.