The story in The Proposal is relatively predictable at every turn, and the basic plotline is tired at best: two people who dislike each other are forced together and feelings blossom between them (to their surprise but not ours). Even just from the previews for this movie we know where the story is going from the very beginning, but before we reach the inevitable conclusion, The Proposal offers up some cute/funny/surprising things along the way.
The story follows ice-queen publishing executive Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) who is a demanding and sometimes cruel boss to her handsome, hard-working assistant, Andrew (Ryan Reynolds). She's certainly no Miranda Priestly, but she knows that Andrew is determined to succeed at the company so when Margaret learns that she'll be deported back to Canada unless she takes some drastic measures, she uses a promotion to bribe Andrew to marry her. Nobody's quite buying this relationship, however — including the folks at the immigration office who will send Andrew to prison (and Margaret to Canada) if they find out the relationship is a sham. So, the fake lovebirds travel to Andrew's hometown in Alaska for his Gammy's (Betty White) birthday to make sure anyone who might be questioned will be able to verify that the two really are in love and getting married. All sorts of awkward and weird hijinks ensue, during which the two learn a little bit about each other and themselves. Yeah, read more.
The performances are what make this film good. Oscar Nuñez (Oscar from The Office) has a surprising role, woven delightfully into the narrative. He provides wonderful comedic relief during the more "dramatic" moments, and though he's used often, I almost wished we'd see even more of him. He was an inspired addition to an already fantastic and likable cast.
And, of course, Betty White steals a few scenes with her blithely sweet "but I'm just an old lady!" innocence — which of course masks a wicked sense of humor and mischievous streak. It's not a totally new device (the old woman who gets away with hilarious things because she's old and people underestimate her), but when Betty White does it she has such an endearing brightness you just want her to stay on screen forever. I wonder if I'll ever tire of Betty White's adorable bubbliness. I probably won't.
The first two-thirds of the movie, in which the snarky, thinly veiled disdain between our two protagonists (along with the fact that this is a professional relationship, so the usual rules of decorum that are ignored here make things even more awkward), are the most worthwhile. Or, worthwhile at all. These silly, jokey-joke moments are also the parts in which Reynolds and Bullock truly shine. They're both very comfortable with this material, and they excel at playing off one another as workplace acquaintances or even as buddies when their relationship begins to warm up. The sparky dynamic between them when they're trading barbs and trying to keep up appearances with gritted teeth is solidly entertaining. It's the real sexual chemistry that's lacking. As we come into the home stretch of the movie, all the tension, excitement, and fun of the previous hour or so comes to a screeching halt. Suddenly, words like "love" are being tossed about, as though they mean something in this situation. But while there's a clear fondness between the two characters by the end it's impossible to think of them as having deep feelings for one another.
All this doesn't negate the fact that there's some great stuff leading up to the ending. I just wish I'd had a fast-forward button for the last half-hour or so because it lags. And then we get to the credits, during which we're treated to some of the funniest parts of the whole movie. All in all, this will make the absolute best airplane movie: it's inoffensive, cute, and just entertaining enough to keep our attention.
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures