High-flying publishing executive Bullock is a bitchy boss who strikes fear and loathing in her staff. Her put-upon male assistant (Ryan Reynolds, Definitely Maybe) grins and bears it, hoping to make a career in the literary world. But when his Canadian-born boss finds out her visa’s expired, her future in the USA is in the balance – unless she can marry an American, pronto. So Bullock proposes: marry me or blow your dreams.
With a reluctant Reynolds agreeing to fabricate a romance, and suspicious immigration officials on their tail, it’s off to Alaska to visit his folks for a weekend of fish-out-of-water fighting, falling-into-water pratfalls and falling-in-love. It’s a romcom but the odd-couple tone keeps it nicely unpredictable.
Bullock’s a blast. Her boss-from-hell isn’t the icy-cold tundra of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada – it’s broader than that. But look closely. Bullock’s consummate comedy-playing is a joy. Never afraid to play down her star status, her comic touches are nuanced, relying as much on visual tics and tones of voice as on the slapstick scenes she does so well (Miss Congeniality, Two Weeks’ Notice) .
Ryan Reynolds more than holds his own – so to speak – and never more so than in the accidental nude scene where both he and Bullock think they’ve got the bedroom to themselves. Bullock’s never done nude and it’s typical of her self-deprecating career that she does it here for laughs, in a ‘12A’ kind of way.
The Proposal is a 21st century spin on an old formula - It Happened One Night with erection-jokes. But the fast-paced pizzazz of the opening thirty minutes loses pace when we get to Alaska. Familiarity takes over from originality. Quirky family-weekends in the backwoods have been recently done (Dan in Real Life) – and the irritating-dog-gets-its-comeuppance is almost a mini-genre itself (There’s Something About Mary, Easy Virtue).
What The Proposal has is Sandra Bullock, a comedienne at the peak of her comedy game. Ryan Reynolds is great as her straight-man. But this is Bullock’s film and it takes us to places her other movies haven’t reached. While we get the speech-to-the-crowd that Sandra’s done in While You Were Sleeping and Miss Congeniality, there’s a brassiness and vulnerability that’s genuinely appealing.
The proposal? A film too uneven to be classy - but with two highly polished performers baring their all in every sense.