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Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Little-Late Film Review - The Proposal

Jagged and shredded steel, broken glass scattered all around, and mangled metal cars wind and bend their way across the landscape as electrical fires break out and property damage and the voices of survivors permeate the landscape. What I’ve just described is a train wreck. In the Proposal, the imperious Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) blackmails her submissive, weak-willed assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) into marrying her so that she is not deported back to Canada. What I’ve just described is also a train wreck.

After the initial announcement of their proposal by Margaret, a shocked Andrew refuses to go along with her plan until she essentially offers to pay him off. So, without any real reason except to include the rest of the cast in the movie, they go to Alaska to meet the Paxton family. The family is filled with popular talents including Betty White, who seems to be reserved to play the old lady that says outrageous things in every bad movie released anymore; Craig T. Nelson, who is a rock, we never really learn anything about this man; Mary Steenburgen, who is underused except to promote the fictional couple’s sexual activity; and the Office’s Oscar Nuñez, who is the obligatory “Jack-of-all-trades” in the small town, he is also an offensive stereotype here.

The performances here are forced and unnatural. Very few characters in this movie are likable and relatable and the overblown acting makes things that much more disconnected. When you are trying to tell the story of an unlikely couple, say Rhett and Scarlet in Gone With the Wind, it is important to make aspects of each character likeable. The biggest problem with the Proposal (and most modern rom-coms for that matter) is that the characters on screen are so outside the bounds of reality that we cannot find a point to connect to. When Harry Met Sally brought together two flawed but likeable characters and revealed them to us and we grew to know them. The Proposal plops them down like a ladle full of stew and we are forced to pick through the slop. The characters are messy, inconsistent and illogical. As a result of this, any attempts at depth the film tries to portray seems like it belongs in a different movie.

Ultimately, The Proposal is a stupid, empty, boring and sometimes mean comedy of which the jokes are the result of behavior that no one on God’s Green Earth would consider normal. There is no room for a thick plot here. There is just Margaret being a contentious, hateful wench to almost everyone on screen including, and especially, Andrew. The problem is, we don’t feel any sympathy for Andrew either because later when the tables turn on their charade, he is just as heartless and dismissive as Margaret has been this whole time.

The genre of the romantic comedy has been a vapid wasteland for a very long time. With the exception of some smart and honest films like (500) Days of Summer and the Forgetting Sarah Marshall, most rom-coms are dumb, gimmicky movies with little regard for the audience and for their stars, and the Proposal is one of the worst offenders because it actually tries to be a heartfelt romance in the end, something I did not buy for a nanosecond. While not as schticky and overblown as the Bounty Hunter, or as disgusting and offensive as the Ugly Truth, the Proposal is a dull, brainless, heartless beast of a film that should be slain for the sake of the people. It could be argued that it is worse in some respects than those two because it is the same manic and immature material disguised as sincere.

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