Anne Fletcher’s The Proposal starts out dismally and props up such a well-worn story in the first ten minutes that every audience member will know precisely how it ends. But funnily enough, it greatly improves as it goes through the motions.
There’s precious little comedy here and things are never taken seriously enough for the drama to work, but the slow-burn romance just about pays off.
Sandra Bullock plays Margaret Tate, a high-powered, no-nonsense editor at a publishing house feared by her colleagues. Ryan Reynolds is Andrew Paxton, her lowly assistant who buys himself the same Starbucks coffee she drinks so he’ll have a backup in case he spills hers.
Early scenes at the office are downright awful; both stars are terribly unconvincing in roles that don’t suit them at all, the characters they play poorly written, unpleasant stereotypes.
And then they lay this strained plot upon us: Margaret is a Canadian, and her visa has just been denied. So she asks Andrew to marry her, to which he agrees, throwing in a promotion for himself to sweeten the pot. Unlikely that a woman in her position would have this happen, unlikely that she would propose this solution, unlikely that he would accept.
But there you have it, and they’re off to Alaska to meet his family (you see, they have to convince the immigration agent (Denis O’Hare) that the marriage is really on the level).
You know exactly where this is going, right? So did I, and I wasn’t looking forward to spending an hour and a half with these characters. They’ll bicker and argue and have comic misadventures and eventually discover the true meaning of family and fall madly in love, a love that is only threatened by the revelation of what brought them together. Throw in some city-girl-in-the-Alaskan-wilderness fish-out-of-water comedy to pad things out.
But they get to Alaska and meet Andrew’s parents, played by Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson, and his grandmother, played by Betty White, and they’ll all kind and loving and pleasant (dad, not so much, but he’s just looking out for his son).
And Reynolds and Bullock slowly shake their character types and return to their likable, natural personas. And they have some great chemistry together later on; you’d wish this was a more intimate romance than the plot allows for, but no, an hour into the film and there’s nary a spark between the two.
The performers, in fact, almost save the film. There are no surprises in the screenplay and every other aspect of the production is merely competent; your enjoyment of the film will ultimately boil down to your response to the leads.