The Proposal Review
Romantic comedies have attracted audiences since 1934’s It Happened One Night, developing through the ages with the likes of The Philadelphia Story (1940), Some Like it Hot (1959), Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961), Annie Hall (1977), When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Notting Hill (1999) and Sex and the City (2008). These films manage to balance romance with comedy in a way that entertains viewers without patronising them and stand alone as classic films that are representative of their genre.
Many contemporary rom-coms, such as Wimbledon (2004), Music and Lyrics (2007) and Bride Wars (2009) recycle the same plot devices, character types and often the same stars leaving fans wanting more. Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth) and Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers, Definitely, Maybe, Confessions of a Shopaholic) are just two such stars that have been playing the heroines of such films.
We have certain expectations when it comes to the romantic comedy and Anne Fletcher’s follow up to 27 Dresses fulfils every single one. We have the gorgeous leads (former rom-com queen Sandra Bullock and comedy star Ryan Reynolds) who play two complete opposites (a demanding boss and her put–upon assistant) forced together when the former blackmails the latter to marry her so she can stay in the country. Of course at first the couple hate each other (When Harry Met Sally, 10 Things I Hate About You, You’ve Got Mail) but seem to fall in love in a short space of time even though they seem to have nothing in common (Before Sunrise, In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Sleepless in Seattle). Of course, that doesn’t mean to say that predictable can’t be entertaining.
Margaret’s job is her whole existence (Miss Congeniality, The Devil Wears Prada, Coco avant Chanel) and when she is told that she is being sent back to Canada and won’t be able to work for the publishing company for at least a year, she ropes her assistant in to marry her so she can stay. But it doesn’t take long before the immigration officials smell something fishy and inform the not-so-happy couple that if they are lying about their relationship Margaret will be deported anyway and Andrew will face a five-year-prison sentence. Margaret then invites herself to Andrew’s home town in Alaska to meet the parents and swot up on her future husband as they celebrate his grandmother’s 90th birthday. You can imagine how the weekend turns out given the genre but the middle third is surprisingly lacking in romance and the big comedy scenes aren’t as good as you would imagine. A scene with a middle-aged stripper is drawn out and squirm-inducing and a scene between Margaret and Andrew’s grandmother in the woods seems out of place (the dance sequence was probably thrown in to indulge director Fletcher’s background as a choreographer). Given Reynolds’ background in comedy (hit US sitcom Two Guys and a Girl, Van Wilder, Buying the Cow, Just Friends, Waiting...) he doesn’t have his usual amount of one-liners and considering the amount of romances Bullock has appeared in (The Lake House, Two Weeks Notice, Miss Congeniality) she is hard to empathise with and it takes a long time to warm up to her. In fact, it seems the stars’ roles have been reversed with Reynolds as the heart of the film and Bullock as the comic relief; although Golden Girl Betty White almost steals the show as the hilarious grandmother.
A lot of my problems with the film lie in the script – the stripper who pops up everywhere, the unnecessary ex-girlfriend who doesn’t really do anything except smile sweetly and look pretty, the lack of romance given it’s a romantic comedy and the overly-long ‘comedy’ scenes. Although God bless writer Pete Chiarelli for the nude scene - even though it’s fairly brief, we do get a good glimpse of Reynolds wearing nothing but a smile and a couple of topless shots thrown in for good measure.
Although Bullock is still considered a film star, she hasn’t made a decent film since 2004’s Crash and her last rom-com was 2002’s Two Weeks Notice opposite Hugh Grant so it’s not like she’s the typical leading lady anymore. Reynolds, however, proves he’s still as entertaining as ever and hopefully his leading role in the upcoming Deadpool is an indication that there are plenty more big films to come. He has done comedy, romance (Definitely, Maybe), blockbuster (Wolverine) and horror (The Amityville Horror) so who knows what’s next for this rising star.
The Proposal is by no means a ground-breaking rom-com but it is definitely worth the admission price. It is formulaic and predictable but then you can say that of most genre films, not just rom-coms. The Proposal should be enjoyed for what it is – escapist entertainment. Reynolds and Bullock play off one another well and have great comic timing. It’s just a shame that the film is so light on the romance.