So on a weekend when you’ve had teeth yanked out from inside your face and you’re slightly loopy and you’ve exhausted your Netflix movies and you want to watch another movie while gorging ice cream, what do you do? Find a Sandra Bullock movie showing on Encore, that’s what! I mean, isn’t that why The Proposal (2009) was made? To watch while you gorge on ice cream?
The situation: Sandra Bullock is Margaret Tate, a high powered New York book editor who we first glimpse dressed all in black, her black hair tied back in an airtight ponytail and being handed her drink of choice, an unsweetened soy latte which is totally my favorite piece of shorthand characterization in the whole film. The person handing her the unsweetened soy latte is her harried assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds) who hasn’t had a day off in three years and was supposed to have the weekend off to fly home for his grandma’s birthday only to have Margaret underscore her bitchiness by nixing that little plan. Man, Andrew hates Margaret.
The twist: it turns out Margaret is Canadian and on account of one of those cinematic paperwork snafus is set to be deported. Of course, at that moment Andrew enters to advise Margaret she had a phone call but he had explained she was otherwise “engaged” and the figurative light bulb goes on over Margaret’s head and she explains she and Andrew are… engaged.
The problem: an INS official suspects this whole marriage is a green card sham and that if he discovers they are committing fraud they will be convicted of a felony and sentenced to five years in prison.
Even though Sandra Bullock can’t quite pull off proper bitchy like some of her contemporaries I certainly did buy that this character would descend to these depths to keep out of Canada to maintain her job. At first it seemed a bit suspicious that Andrew would also descend to these depths and risk five years in prison, even after blackmailing Margaret in keeping up the ruse so long as she agrees to make him an editor, but that was until they went back home to Alaska.
Did I not mention that? Andrew is from Alaska and takes his “fiancé” home to meet the folks – his pleasant mom (the always pleasant Mary Steenburgen), his “wacky” grandmother (the always wacky Betty White) and his disapproving father (Craig T. Nelson). Upon meeting the father who is vastly wealthy and wants his son to take over the family business I decided to buy that, yes, Andrew would risk five years in prison just to piss off dad. There certainly are sons in the world who would do such things.
So……two people who can’t stand each other come to Alaska posing as future husband and wife. What do we expect? Well, we expect them to slowly realize that they really do love one another and really do want to get married and, sure enough, the movie heads smack dab in that general direction. Enter The Proposal’s secret weapon:
Let me explain. I watched The Romantics (2010) a couple months ago and fell hard for the bewitching Ms. Akerman, officially naming her heir to Sienna Miller’s throne as my official Cinematic Crush. Here Akerman plays Gertrude, the hometown girl who Andrew dated until he left to make it in the Big City. And Akerman, of course, can’t be allowed to look quite as pretty as the leading lady and so the filmmakers never let her look as beautiful as she really is and she can’t really appear in all that many scenes because this is Hollywood and Hollywood can’t allow more than 17 seconds to pass without showing its primary star and she can’t be too wacky in the scenes she is in because Betty White was hired to fulfill the wacky quotient and so she’s basically just there as your typical screenwriting pawn but, nevertheless, it was still Malin Akerman and so this allowed me something crucial – a vested rooting interest. Go, Malin! Down with Sandra!
And eventually we arrive at the inevitable wedding ceremony where Margaret finally comes clean to the whole Paxton clan about the charade and runs away and the Paxton clan is devastated and Gertrude tracks down Andrew and I thought, “Here it is! This is the moment! Andrew realizes he’s loved Gertrude all along and belongs in Alaska, just like Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama, (not that I’ve seen that)!” Except Gertrude tells Andrew to go after Margaret instead. And he does. Sandra = Winner. Malin = Loser. Which is why this reviewer gives The Proposal a gigantic, emphatic…