Monday, 16 August 2010

The Proposal (2009)

Sandra Bullock is something of a mystery to me. I have not yet seen her Oscar-winning role in "The Blind Side" nor the purported turkey that preceded it, "All About Steve", and I don't dislike her girl-next-door charm nor her general feistiness. However there is little depth to her performances, and I have an upper tolerance level for her clutzy heroines. Her films are pleasant enough to watch, unlike much of the drivel out there, but like the proverbial Chinese meal they leave one unsatisfied and hungry after an hour's gorging.

In this run-of-the-mill rom-com she plays a bossy-boots publishing executive in New York, feared by all of her staff, who has somehow overlooked maintaining her work visa and who is about to be deported to her native Canada. So her beady eye settles on her oppressed 'executive secretary' Ryan Reynolds, whom she bullies into agreeing to marry her if he hopes to save his own ambitions of a career and publishing his magnum opus. Of course there is a nosy immigration official who doubts their genuineness (much like 1990's superior "Green Card") and the couple have only the weekend to prepare for his forthcoming inquisition. They go off to Reynolds' hometown of Sitka, Alaska, where he was due to celebrate his "Gammy" Betty White's 90th birthday and where his family appear to own just about the whole scenic town. Taking advantage of the previously-hated Bullock's new vulnerability, Reynolds uses the occasion to be bolshy towards his boss. Yet at the homecoming cocktails, he announces their engagement to the astonished assembled family, friends, and neighbours. Naturally his progressive parents, Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson, have allocated them a room with a single double bed and the couple are forced to keep up their pretense, as Bullock tries to maintain her very prim modesty. To add insult to injury, his family decide that they should wed that weekend as a special treat for "Gammy".

Despite the obvious age difference between the leads (45 and 32 respectively when the film was made), they do have a workable chemistry. However the scenario is so contrived and far-fetched that one would prefer to not accept the obvious outcome. Apart from the leads' general likeability, Betty White is nearly the whole show with her straightforward outspokeness and Native Indian beliefs. One admires her taking on this important role (she is pushing 90 herself) in making this farrago more palatable. She was certainly preferable to the so-called comic relief of Oscar Nunez, playing a pushy waiter, a male stripper, the local shopkeeper, and the minister at their will-they-or-won't-they wedding. It's hard enough to believe that a grand ceremony can be arranged in 24 hours but we are also meant to wonder if the two leads can squirm out of the procedings. Will he risk his future? Will she resign herself to being deported? No prizes for predicting the eventual outcome!

Since any moviegoer knows from square one the inevitable denouement to such flicks, it is not a spoiler to say that he ultimately recognizes the loveable, mushy interior to her hard-bitten exterior and that she learns the value of warm family relationships. However I think on balance I prefer the old Doris Day/Rock Hudson shennanigans to this latter-day contrived confection.
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