22 July 2009

Movie Review: The Proposal


The Proposal
2009, 108mins, PG-13
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Peter Chiarelli
Cast includes: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Craig. T. Nelson, Malin Akerman, Betty White, Mary Steenburgen
Release Date: 19th June 2009

If imitation is the highest form of flattery then the rom-com genre should be blushing, it’s latest addition “The Proposal” sticking so close to formula that it ought to be a case of cinematic identity theft. Directed by Anne Fletcher “The Proposal” is instantly on shaky creative grounds, her less than stunning résumé including atrocious teen romance “Step Up” and last years fetid Katherine Heigl vehicle “27 Dresses”. I wouldn’t say that amidst that group of clunkers “The Proposal” represents a nadir but it’s still a roughly cut picture with little to recommend it. Certainly whilst it’s not her worst “The Proposal” won’t look to out of place in Fletcher’s noxious back- catalogue.

Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) is a frosty and career driven book publicist who runs her hopeful but downtrodden assistant Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) mad with tasks and errands. Finding that her US Citizenship has been declined Margaret is faced with being deported back to her native Canada and thus losing her shining job and undoing years of hardnosed work in the process. In order to stay she blackmails Andrew into a sham marriage and so in order to appease the federal investigating body they take off to see Andrew’s family in Alaska. There preparations are made for the couples happy day, Andrew’s mother and grandmother (Mary Steenburgen, Betty White) elated at the thought of Andrew getting hitched but his father (Craig. T. Nelson) is considerably more suspicious of the circumstances.

Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds make a decent screen couple but the movie they’ve ended up in just can’t make use of their adequate chemistry, “The Proposal” to torn up on genre conventions and lazy humour to generate any semblance of romantic integrity. Too much of “The Proposal” is familiar and boring for me to recommend it as light summer fun, by the 40 minute mark the picture has become bogged in tedium and it never recovers. Maybe had a better director been in charge of proceedings this might not have been such a drag but sadly Fletcher’s incompetence renders “The Proposal” a lifeless dullard of a movie.

Bullock and Reynolds are game and do put in respectable amounts of effort but the script gives up early leaving them with only occasional sparks of improvisation to work with. The characters presented in Pete Chiarelli’s screenplay are musty cardboard cut outs of personalities we’ve seen many times before but Bullock and Reynolds work hard enough to the point they almost seem fresh.....almost. The bond between the two is believable and some of the banter between them witty but ultimately that’s as far as praise for “The Proposal” goes. The rest of the cast might as well not be there, Steenburgen and Nelson get little in the way of proper dramatic moments and Betty White is crudely deployed as the kooky comedy element. White’s not as filthy mouthed as we’ve seen her in recent years but Fletcher still uses the elderly actress in the same loudmouthed and stale fashion filmmakers have been for over a decade.

The romance in “The Proposal” reaches its climactic stage unnaturally fast, leaving the audience to work through a totally predictable “will he, won’t she” dilemma for the majority of the film. Nothing ever seems dicey or anyone in real trouble during “The Proposal” meaning moments of emotional trauma and government evasion feel unnecessary and slow. The movie attempts to give things an extra dimensionality about halfway through via a frank and supposedly revealing bedtime discussion between Margaret and Andrew but in truth it only goes to highlight how underdeveloped the plotline and characters are. The thin nature of the characters and thoroughly predictable nature of the story mean that not once whilst watching will audiences feel that anything is in the hands of fate, the outcome is set in stone from the opening moment.

The movie is consistently cheerful but sadly its optimism isn’t matched in its success rate with jokes. Laughter is scarce throughout and much of the tom foolery on show feels old hat and recycled. The number of times I so much as giggled couldn’t have exceeded the rather tepid total of four and the rest of my screening seemed to be enduring the same largely silent response. “The Proposal” is an incredibly familiar story made by borderline talentless filmmakers who in the process of making this uninspired confection wasted a good cast. It’s bland and unimaginative and whilst I doubt “The Proposal” is bad enough to be remembered amongst the genre’s biggest offenders, rom-com enthusiasts are guaranteed to feel the disappointing sting of having seen it all before in the past, only done better.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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