Posted: 10/05/2009


The Proposal

by Del Harvey

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Sandra Bullock is Margaret Tate, a powerful book editor for a major New York publishing firm. She is forced to make a hasty arrangement when her boss brings to her attention a letter of deportation from the U.S. government, stating she must return to her homeland of Canada within a certain number of days. Her situation is even further complicated when she’s told that she cannot continue working for her firm, or any US firm, for at least a year. Desperate, she decides then and there to marry her male assistant, Andrew (Ryan Reynolds), in order to stay in the country and keep her high power position.

However, her pushy attitude gets them both into trouble when they visit the immigration office, and sets off warning bells for Mr. Gilbertson (Denis O’Hare), the immigration inspector reviewing their case. Fast-talking their way through the interview, they tell him they’re traveling to Alaska to meet his family and, once there, the new couple come face-to-face with the realities of their situation as they fake their way through a surprise wedding thrown by his parents.

The Proposal is an extremely entertaining and surprisingly enjoyable romantic comedy of the long-lost and poorly imitated ‘screwball’ variety. It is reminiscent of a Cary Grant-Katherine Hepburn classic, and contains some of the funniest material in a rom-com you are bound to see this year. And it is refreshing to see the May-December romance where the female is a generation older than the male for a change. But what is most amazing is the number of flaws in the film; yet thanks to the acting skills of the two leads and some very funny scenes, The Proposal is one film you must see if you love a good romantic comedy.

The flaws I mention have mostly to do with the writer/director/executive producers assuming the audience will accept that these two care about each other, seemingly because they are the prettiest people on the screen. This has to do with the filmmakers not spending any effort establishing a few simple aspects of the character’s background. The result may be confusing to anyone who has seen a romantic comedy and likes to know why the characters they are rooting for care about each other, beyond just being billboard beautiful, that is.

And there are a few other such flaws which pop up from time to time as the film rolls on, but to be honest, they can be ignored. Still, if this is the best Hollywood can do with a screwball comedy, I certainly won’t knock it. I won’t, however, recommend that any of my screenwriting students imitate the style completely.

For the mainstream audience, I don’t believe these flaws will be all that noticeable. I hope not, anyway, for the film’s sake. It is awfully good and one of the most enjoyable romantic comedies to come from the Hollywood machine in quite some time, and I’m just wondering how this minor miracle could have been allowed to happen in an age when gross-out comedy and fighting robots are the preferred norm.

Look for an excellent supporting cast which includes Betty White, Mary Steenburgen, Malin Akerman, Craig T. Nelson, and character actor Oscar Nunez as Sitka, Alaska’s all-purpose man-about-town as he fulfills the duties of caterer, general store manager, priest, and male stripper.

The Proposal will be available on DVD & Blu-ray Tuesday, Oct. 13th. Bonus features include:
• Set Antics: Outtakes and Other Absurdities From The Proposal — Bloopers and
light moments on set with the cast and crew of The Proposal
• Deleted Scenes
• Audio Commentary by director Anne Fletcher and writer Peter Chiarelli
• Alternate Ending

Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.

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