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THE PROPOSAL, 2008
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Directed by Anne Fletcher
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Betty White, Oscar Nunez
Review by Andrew Kosarko



SYNOPSIS:

When high-powered book editor Margaret (SANDRA BULLOCK) faces deportation to her native Canada, the quick-thinking exec declares that she’s actually engaged to her unsuspecting put-upon assistant Andrew (RYAN REYNOLDS), who she’s tormented for years. He agrees to participate in the charade, but with a few conditions of his own. The unlikely couple heads to Alaska to meet his quirky family (MARY STEENBURGEN, CRAIG T. NELSON, BETTY WHITE) and the always-in-control city girl finds herself in one comedic fish-out-of-water situation after another. With an impromptu wedding in the works and an immigration official on their tails, Margaret and Andrew reluctantly vow to stick to the plan despite the precarious consequences.

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REVIEW:

I’m the first one to admit it, I’m not a Sandra Bullock fan in the least. I have about as big of a man crush on Ryan Reynolds movies as it gets before I enter an entirely new sexual orientation. But this movie works…to a point.

The Story:

As in the synopsis and the trailers, it’s basically “Meet the Parents” meets “Wedding Daze”. The scenes are well done, weather it’s the writing or the acting there’s always something intriguing going on. The comedy is there. I had absolutely no problems, sans one scene I’ll get to in a moment, with the comedy. It’s the romance that ultimately suffers in this film. The dramatic/romantic setups are some of the strongest I’ve seen in a while, and it almost feels like someone wrote the first half, was fired and then someone new was brought in to finish off the script (or vice versa). Either way, there’s a family conflict going on between Reynolds and Nelson that hits very well home to the father/son disagreements of this reviewer. While many films have taken a stab at this conflict, not many have succeeded. The setups for this conflict are amazingly well done but never go anywhere in the end. It’s the same with the romance. Reynolds and Bullock have this great oil and water relationship in the start, but there’s never a moment where you truly feel the two hit the same page and are in love with each other. Not for a lack of trying though, it seems the moral resolution at the end of the film comes from guilt and not from love, which is why the romance aspects don’t end up working. The comedy has only one scene that I have to spoil because, well, I don’t know how the hell it got into the movie. Sandra Bullock goes into the woods and discovers wacky grandma, Betty White,

decked out in an Indian cloak chanting to Mother Earth. The entire scene is very contrived with trite. The dancing, the song, the concept in general. Either a producer, actor, writer or director woke up and said “we need to put Betty Davis dressed like an Indian….yes, that will be very funny.” Some audience members did find it funny, but I’ve seen enough comedies in my time where it was the only time I rolled my eyes in the film…..other than the heart attack scene that started as trite as the Indian scene but ended with quite possibly the best resolution I’ve ever seen on film. In the end, the film wraps up with the formulaic ending, but emotionally, I really don’t feel like we reach a point where it makes sense. It’s just convenient to end on that note.

Acting:

Reynolds could stare into a camera for 2 hours with a slightly changing smirk on his face and I would be entertained. He’s almost like the white Will Smith. He can do it all, action, drama, comedy, sci fi, television and he always performs to the most entertaining degree. Bullock is tolerable. I’m sure women will love her as my girlfriend did, but even if you’re like me and not a fan of her, she’s much less annoying in this film than she is in those beauty pageant movies. Nelson and Steenburgen are very well in coming off as a couple fighting with each other and although we don’t get it in the story, their acting makes you feel like they had their characters strongly fleshed out in their minds….and Betty Davis…well, she’s Betty Davis. ‘nough said.

Directing:

I give Fletcher credit. The comedy is solid. Much from Reynolds who knows what he’s doing, but in the end the director catches the credit, whether it be a terrible or fantastic movie and this is no exception. The comedy is there and that’s the number one draw for filling the seats. My only advice is that she step up on raising emotional arcs, whether in direction or the screenplay and she could have had a new “Wedding Crashers” for us.

Cinematography:

It’s well shot for a comedy. Obviously some green screen shots at times, but that’s just my filmmaker eye. Overall though, it works for the comedy. And yes, it’s possible for cinematography to ruin good humor. Want proof? Check out “Man of the Year” with Robin Williams. The lack of close ups kills the emotional resonance of the humor in that film. So the camerawork in this film works with the comedy.

Production Design:

It’s good stuff. I’m not sure if I believed they were in Alaska the whole time, but I didn’t really care that much. I laughed. That’s all that mattered didn’t it? And they didn’t CGI the eagle, so that was good too. Or if they did, I couldn’t tell.

Editing:

Maybe the lack of the romance was failing in this aspect. In fact, it’s very possible. Holding a shot a second longer than usual with drama/romance can make all the difference in the world in communicating subtle messages to the audience. But like I said, it works for the comedy.

Score:

It’s a romantic comedy score. Nothing all that original, but doesn’t stand out either. But like I said above….over and over again…..it works.

Special Effects:

I don’t think there were any outside of the green screen backgrounds.

In closing:

The movie is definitely worth checking out for the comedy alone. Reynolds holds his own. There’s some great dramatic scenes littered throughout and the only thing you’ll come away from this movie wishing is that the romance aspect was better justified by the ending….oh and if you’re a fan of the American “The Office” television show…..you’ll never be able to look at Oscar the same way again.

This film won Best Director and Best Cinematography, and was nominated for five other categories. The screenwriter was nominated, and rightly so. Taken from a short story that first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1933 by Maurice Walsh, Green Rushes, Frank Nugent was able to weave a story rich in subtext and conflict.

The collector’s edition of the DVD includes an interview with Maureen O’Hara where she reminisces about filming The Quiet Man, and is well worth watching.

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