The Proposal (2009).

D: Anne Fletcher. DP: Oliver Stapleton. W: Pete Chiarelli. Starring: Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds/Betty White/Criag T. Nelson/Mary Steenburgen/Malin Ackerman/Dennis O’Hare/Oscar Nuñez.

It seems that no matter the economic climate cinematic audiences will always be privy to the option of the date movie, the romantic comedy or as some tend to degrade them, chick flicks. But let me once again remind you, that no matter the label you slap onto one of these films, always, always demand that it be smart. Because if you are to consume fluff, as is necessary from time to time, it must be clever fluff. Set the bar high my friends only then will you be truly satisfied.

As for The Proposal, well it just about cleans up too nicely. The premise is nothing new, woman swindles man into engagement in order to avoid catastrophe. Yes, of course, the power play between Editor-in-Chief Margaret (Bullock) and her executive assistant Andrew (Reynolds) is a nice turn of the table, but the film still gives us the usual. Bullock is tight lipped, well-suited, and a hard-ass, which must of course mean that we are to assume she’s a bitch and that she is lacking in the love department. When can we see a successful woman who is happy, emotionally healthy, and well liked on screen? Probably never, due to someone in Hollywood’s belief that those woman do not exist. But then again how would they know as the majority of the working producers, directors and executives are men? But I digress…

There is of course nice chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds, who steals some scenes with smooth comic timing and baffling facial expressions that allow his role to not simply be that of smartish beef-cake American boy. Unfortunately, Chiarelli’s script never gives Reynold’s Andrew a chance to open up and become more that the family and home we eventually see. This stunts the film as the couple’s romance eventually feels a little off kilter towards the end.

But, what Chiarelli does give Fletcher and Stapleton is a beautiful setting. Set in Alaska, but shot in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the landscape allows The Proposal to escape its genre confines and tell a story specifically tied to a landscape, history and look. This fosters great moments of visual juxtaposition within wardrobe all the way to lighting. These differences provide the template for most of Bullock’s humor, which is steady and likable as I propose (har-har) she’ll ever be.

Lastly, I must note that some of the humor could have been more polished. Thankfully, there were minimal silly sex jokes and only one stupid sequence with a dog and an eagle. However, I do wish the caliber of the comedy matched the smarts of the two leads who obviously are capable, successful and passionate characters. Of course, the rest of the cast does well doing what was asked of them (you know, being supporting) with Miss Ackerman being just as forgettable as ever.

And forgotten is where this film will end up. Yes, sweetheart, you might buy it on DVD for a late night ice cream binge, but that is you. The rest of us will move on, to more complicated desert choices, and frankly, better entertainment.

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