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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Proposal (review)

Wedding Crashers

Stupid narrow-minded provincial Alaskans? Hilarious! Especially when they’re horny white grandmas appropriating native Inuit culture for their own use! Stupid narrow-minded provincial New Yorkers? That’s our heroine! Whom we’re supposed to hate so much we love her, or something! Except she’s Canadian! A Canadian who’s gone so native in the Big Apple that she thinks Canada is part of the United States! Her? An immigrant? Nonsense!
The grinding of my teeth began as The Proposal opened, and it didn’t stop for the next two excruciating hours. I’m going to send my dentist’s bill to Sandra Bullock. And to screenwriter Pete Chiarelli, who hasn’t written anything before (at least not that’s been produced), but clearly, he has seen Green Card and Northern Exposure and figured that those two great tastes would go great together. And to director Anne Fletcher, who clearly figured that her 27 Dresses hadn’t done enough to sap all intelligence out of the romantic comedy, all hint of the feminist out of a movie with a female protagonist, and all romance out of the concept of “the wedding” — and there’s precious little of any intelligence, feminism, and romance to be found anywhere these days to start with.

I’m not sure if I hate The Proposal most for being so damn contrived, for being so fucking shameless in its cheap pandering, for descending to its most slapsticky just as it’s maybe about to touch on some genuine feeling as if it assumes its audience has the emotional maturity of a kindergartner, or for its total lack of any balls at all. All of it made me want to throw things at the screen, however, so I really don’t feel the need to choose.

Perhaps I can best encapsulate the moronic simplism of the movie thus: One of the movie’s biggest “jokes” is not merely telegraphed a couple of scenes before it occurs, it’s outright announced with trumpets and a red carpet. One character warns, “Don’t do ABC, or XYZ [which would allegedly be hilarious] will happen!” And then, once ABC is of course allowed to occur, XYZ follows hard on its heels. The filmmakers clearly believe this is shocking, and hence funny, and perhaps it might have been if we hadn’t been alerted to this possibility in advance. (Though probably not. It would at least have been surprising, however.)

And I haven’t even touched on the utter superfluousness and simultaneous idiocy of the story itself yet.

Sandra Bullock’s (Premonition, Infamous) “poisonous bitch” of a New York book editor is about to be deported to Canada, so in an attempt to fool the INS, she tells her assistant, Ryan Reynolds (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Adventureland), that he must marry her or she’ll fire him. See, it’s funny, cuz, sexual harassment is awesome, kinda like an S&M game, when it’s gal-on-guy. Of course she doesn’t already have a boyfriend or husband because she’s a career bitch who has already been getting her jollies sending poor Ryan on “midnight Tampax runs,” so why not just complete his humiliation? He agrees to this charade (he has no life outside the office, either, with which this would interfere), because he figures he can weasel a promotion out of it, which makes him some kind of whore, I figure. Naturally, it’s his grandmother’s (Betty White: Bringing Down the House, Lake Placid) 90th birthday up in Alaska, from which he escaped many years ago, so they have to go and fake being a couple for the weekend. Why they have to do this isn’t ever really clear, except there’d have been no movie if they hadn’t, which would have been a blessing.

So that’s it. You don’t need to have seen the film’s trailer — which condenses the entire film into two and a half minutes, which is still too long — to know that after a weekend over which they are hateful and awful to each other, they will fall in love for real. Along the way a cocktail waiter/exotic dancer will shove an unwanted hors d’oeuvre into her mouth (that’s how they roll in uncivilized Alaska, apparently); Sandra and Ryan will unexpectedly find themselves naked in each other’s presence (it’s funny, see, cuz they’re naked! boobies! heinies! naked naked!); she will reveal that she does not know how men’s bodies work (it’s called an erection, dear, and it’s normal). Finally, the woman whose personality Ryan had just the day before likened to that of a monster “snacking on children while they dream” will tell a sad story about something bad that happened to her while she was a teenager, and then it’s all love and roses and sweetness and chocolate and fluffy clouds. Never mind that bad stuff happens to people all the time, and most of them deal with it without turning into vipers for the next 20 years: she’s Sandra Bullock, and we know she’s only pretending to be a bitch. Awwwww!

Ugh…

Sitka looks nice, though.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and language

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • MaSch

    Can I make an assumption: It is not implied that Reynold’s character has an erection because he is horny at the moment.

    If so, this movie really presents a truth that many people, women and possibly some men, would hardly ever believe. I guess this aspect of the movie could deserve some praise.

    The rest of it sounds like crap, to be honest.

  • See, it’s funny, cuz, sexual harassment is awesome, kinda like an S&M game, when it’s gal-on-guy.

    Unless she’s a fattie! :D

    I hope you didn’t have to pay to see this one, MaryAnn.

    PS: If this comment shows up, the error I emailed you about is fixed I guess?

  • MaryAnn

    The error was transitory, and yes, it’s fixed.

    Yes, I did have to pay for this one, because it’s a Disney (Touchstone) film, and I’m still on Disney’s shitlist. What’s worse, I paid $17.50 for this, which would have been criminal for any film that wasn’t true IMAX. Which of course this one was not.

    Can I make an assumption: It is not implied that Reynold’s character has an erection because he is horny at the moment.

    He’s got an erection in the morning, when he wakes up. Which is a function of male anatomy a gal would have to know about, unless she was raised by wolves and from there entered a cloistered nunnery.

  • A Guy

    If MaryAnn is bitching about a comedy’s lack of feminist bona fides (is that proper usage? I’ve never used ‘bona fides’ before, but I’ve wanted to ever since I heard it in ‘O Brother…’), it will likely be box office gold.

    ($17.50 to see a regular movie? Is that what movies are going for now in NYC? Wow.)

  • bats :[

    Do normal people fall down a lot? I do my best not to, but it seems that Kristen Stewart in “Twilight,” Julianne Moore in “Evolution” (ech) and Sandra Bullock in this movie do it all the time.

    Is it because I’m not pretty enough, or that I just have a better sense of balance?

  • Thera Pitts

    She didn’t threaten to fire him if he didn’t marry her, he would have lost his job anyway. I thought it was a cute enough movie, I agree that the slapsticky moments were infuriating but they wouldn’t have pissed me off at all if I just flat out hated the movie alltogether. The performances from Bullock and Reynolds saved it, or at least made it tolerable.

  • MaryAnn

    ($17.50 to see a regular movie? Is that what movies are going for now in NYC? Wow.)

    No, this was a for a “digital presentation,” which is just a bullshit way of squeezing a few more dollars out of people. A 3D presentation will cost that these days, but the gall of AMC asking that for this movie was sickening.

    The theater was packed, though.

    She didn’t threaten to fire him if he didn’t marry her, he would have lost his job anyway.

    That’s how she framed it, and it’s not too likely — much more likely is that he’d simply have been reassigned to another pain-in-the-ass boss. It’s still sexual harassment.

  • gloria monti, ph.d.

    This venomous review, complete with two factual errors and one heterosexual assumption, fails to point out the one serious problem of this film: the stereotypical and racist portrayal of the Latino character. I found it offensive and unconscionable, considering this is 2009. Factual errors: the INS is no longer called INS. It’s called Homeland Security. The Sitka you found nice was actually a fictional town filmed in Rhode Island and Massachussets. Heterosexist assumption: “He’s got an erection in the morning, when he wakes up. Which is a function of male anatomy a gal would have to know about, unless she was raised by wolves and from there entered a cloistered nunnery.” You are trying to be funny when in fact you are assuming that all “gals” know about male anatomy in the morning. Maybe some don’t because they couldn’t care less. But if you were fooled into paying $17.50 for a romantic comedy with the false promise that it would be shown in IMAX, I am not surprised by your cluelessness when it comes to sexual orientation.

  • Victor Plenty

    So, now there’s a Ph.D. in the art of straining at gnats?

  • Accounting Ninja

    Well, gloria-with-lower-case-proper-name, I knew about morning wood in middle school, long before I ever had sex with anyone. It’s not heterosexist any more than expecting a gay boy to know girls have periods. This is health class stuff, here.

    And, it’s not heterosexist anyway, because Bullock’s character is not portrayed as a lesbian (I think :), because that would have been beyond offensive and heterosexist: a hard-assed lesbian just needs a good dicking? Sigh. She was a straight gal, albeit one who was kidnapped in 6th grade on her way to Sex Ed and sealed in a bubble for 30 years.

    As for your other complaint, gee whiz! Sitka is fictional?? Damn you, Mary Ann!! I had just booked a weekend getaway via Priceline to “Sitka, Canada” next week!! Now what’ll I do? You owe me a bucolic Canadian getaway!

  • Really

    gloria,

    I’m going to assume you were referring to the location shots USED for Sitka as being fictional, because Sitka, Alaska is certainly real (see:http://www.sitka.com/). At least, I hope it’s real and not an elaborate plot to get sympathy from my Coast Guard buddies who are pretending to live there while actually living it up in Tahiti.

  • Jim

    This is a funny review I must admit.

  • Sitka is a real place in coastal Alaska, an odd intersection of US/Native American/Russian culture. I haven’t been there, but I’d love to visit.

    This movie was mostly filmed in Massachusetts, in a community on the north shore called Rockport. Even with some mountains CGI’ed in the background, Rockport didn’t look that much like Sitka. It looked…well, like Rockport with mountains inserted. Still, they tried. At least the second unit might have gotten up to coastal Alaska for a few shots of mountains and the midnight sun (or their special effects folks had some fun with that).

    While most people are nailing Sandra Bullock’s character for being a jerk for most of the movie (and rightfully so), there’s a little less abuse for Ryan Reynolds, who’s putting up with her because he’s been promised a massive promotion. So the script observes frequently that he’s manipulating her as much as she’s manipulating him. He’s getting something he wants desperately.

    I loved Betty White – where’s she been? She was great!

    While Mary Steenburgen was good, it was a little disconcerting that she looked so much like Bullock. It lent a little Oepipal tint to the proceedings.

    I took the, um, her surprise at his morning erection as a hint that she hadn’t regularly spent the night with a guy, which given her nose to the grindstone tendencies was a possibility.

    And, while I’m not normally a fan of Ryan Reynolds, he was pretty charming in this movie.

    So, if you’re in the mood for something lightweight where there’s nothing particularly disgusting going on (except for the male stripper…ugh), I didn’t think this was a waste of money. Of course, I only paid $6.50 to go see it. If I’d paid $17.50, I’d be pretty pissed too.

  • What’s worse, I paid $17.50 for this, which would have been criminal for any film that wasn’t true IMAX. Which of course this one was not.

    They don’t have matinees in NYC anymore?

    This venomous review, complete with two factual errors and one heterosexual assumption, fails to point out the one serious problem of this film: the stereotypical and racist portrayal of the Latino character. I found it offensive and unconscionable, considering this is 2009.

    I’m not exactly a big fan of Latino stereotypes myself but considering the fact that most of the movie’s main characters were non-Latins, I’d recommend giving MaryAnn the benefit of a doubt here.

  • MaryAnn

    They don’t have matinees in NYC anymore?

    Bargain matinees in NYC are a rarity. But I saw this at the Saturday-night sneak preview a week before it opened. There were never going to be any discounts for that one.

    I cannot possibly imagine how anyone could interpret what I wrote about how much I paid to see this as that I thought I was going to see this in IMAX. Seriously, it’s really disturbing how poorly some people read.

    The Sitka you found nice was actually a fictional town filmed in Rhode Island and Massachussets.

    Christ almighty, gloria, please tell me you do not really have such an advanced degree? The point isn’t whether that was really Sitka! The point was that the only genuine enjoyment I got out of the film was the scenery!

    the stereotypical and racist portrayal of the Latino character

    The actor may be Latino, but I’m not sure the character was meant to be. But even he was Latino, he didn’t seem like a stereotype of a *Latino* — just a stereotype of an idiot.

    Gloria got one thing right, though: My review is most certainly venomous. That was deliberate.

    there’s a little less abuse for Ryan Reynolds

    Well, I did call his character a whore…

  • alinia

    I just about started crying with laughter at the comments on this review. Especially the tangent where folks in NYC (admittedly assumed even though I am not ’cause that’s where MaryAnn is) start debating the fictionality of a small Alaskan town. Unfortunately, that’s probably why I’ll like the movie, because I laugh at stupid things like that (clearly I was trained in my childhood by Disney) AND I think that Sandra and Ryan are cute anyway.

  • I saw the movie today to see if it was as bad as MaryAnn said. (Yes, I know. That’s not exactly the reaction MaryAnn wished to provoke with her review, but still…)

    My thoughts:

    The actor may be Latino, but I’m not sure the character was meant to be. But even he was Latino, he didn’t seem like a stereotype of a *Latino* — just a stereotype of an idiot.

    Well, the character was called Raimon, spoke at times with a thick Spanish accent and worked at one point as a waiter (a profession commonly associated with Latinos in modern-day Hollywood movies). So it seems a bit naive to argue that his character wasn’t meant to be Latino.

    Besides, I liked the same actor a lot better when he played Oscar the accountant in the U.S. version of The Office, a role in which he manages to be a lot funnier without being half as idiotic as the character he play in this flick.

    For that matter, I liked Vanessa Williams’ Miranda Priestly imitation a lot better in Ugly Betty a lot better than Sandra Bullock’s imitation of same in this flick.

    I’d say Sandra Bullock was too nice to convincingly play a “boss from Hell” character but apparently there’s some type of stigma attached to the word “nice” on this forum…

  • For that matter, I liked Vanessa Williams’ Miranda Priestly imitation a lot better in Ugly Betty a lot better than Sandra Bullock’s imitation of same in this flick.

    Arrgh! I hate redundancy.

    At least it’s not in the British sense of the word…

  • While Mary Steenburgen was good, it was a little disconcerting that she looked so much like Bullock. It lent a little Oedipal tint to the proceedings.

    Yes, I noticed that. I heard of wanting to marry a girl like the one who married dear old Dad but most of us rarely take that phrase so literally…

    The filmmakers clearly believe this is shocking, and hence funny, and perhaps it might have been if we hadn’t been alerted to this possibility in advance.

    And yet you found one poor character’s death in Tropic Thunder to be the quintessence of comedy. Curiouser and curiouser…

    Not that I found that scene with the dog any funnier but still…

    Sandra and Ryan will unexpectedly find themselves naked in each other’s presence…

    Then again, that particular sequence did give us the one scene I’d never thought I’d see in a Sandra Bullock scene.

    However, chivalry forbids me from commenting on whether or not that’s a good thing…

  • Then again, that particular sequence did give us the one scene I’d never thought I’d see in a Sandra Bullock scene.

    I meant to write “Sandra Bullock movie,” of course.

    I guess that faux pas is God’s way of telling me it’s time for me to shut up for the night….

  • Victor Plenty

    Tonio, in your first comment, you said you wanted to learn whether this movie was as bad as MaryAnn said it was. After reading the interesting observations in all of your comments carefully, I am still curious to learn your conclusion on that original question.

  • Well, I liked it less than Laurie and more than MaryAnn–at least as long as it wasn’t dealing with immigration issues and Latino characters. At the risk of being accused of straining at gnats, I really really really didn’t care for the film’s take on those two elements and you don’t really need a Ph.D to guess why.

    Yes, I get that it wasn’t supposed to be a documentary but as MaryAnn aptly pointed out, there are other movies that have dealt with similar subject matter in better fashion.

    Which reminds me: I probably need to add Green Card to my Netflix queue.

  • Victor Plenty

    Sorry, Tonio. Guess I should’ve written a longer comment back to Doc Monti. To clarify, my “straining at gnats” quip was aimed at her complaints about really minor errors.

    So the movie wasn’t filmed on location in Sitka; that has no real bearing on anything important in the review. And many people still call immigration officials “INS,” even though those officials are trying to make people stop calling them that.

    (As a side note, it’s also incorrect to call them “DHS” instead. These officials proudly preen shiny titles they got in recent years from three new government agencies. DHS is too broad a term, not specific enough to satisfy the special folks who bristle at being called INS.)

    Doc Monti’s comment would’ve been stronger had she spent less time straining at such gnats, and focused on the valid points she barely mentioned, and which you have clarified, Tonio.

    A badly caricatured Latino stereotype is always offensive. It is even more so in a shallow fantasy about immigration issues that are no laughing matter to millions of people suffering in America’s current outbreak of racist anti-immigrant fervor. On that point I completely agree with you.

  • I should have said this earlier, Victor, but no worries.

    I should have known that you meant it that way but I didn’t.

    Sorry for the undeserved sarcasm.

  • martha

    Has anyone mentioned that Grandma Betty White wasn’t Inuit as the reviewer mentioned? She was Tlingit (pronounced /ˈklɪŋkɪt/ or /ˈtlɪŋɡɪt/ in English or Lingit (pronounced [ɬɪŋkɪt] in Lingit!).

    It was a screwball romantic comedy, and I hate it when pretentious urbanites must play the true-to-multi-culti snit routine.

    It was light entertainment, totally missed by the inappropriately earnest reviews I’ve read here.

  • Tony Domy

    Hi all,

    FYI I loved this movie, and I loved 27 Dresses. Bizarre hey?!

    Does that make me gay, or is that contrived?

    Anyway, I had a nice time.

    TD :)

  • amanohyo

    martha, there’s a bit of irony to be found in the transition from your first paragraph to the second (just out of curiosity, would you say that the detested “multi-culti snit routine” dominates the review?), and I humbly suggest that the tone of your comment could also be characterized as, “inappropriately earnest.”

    And why so defensive Tony? How could liking a horrible movie make you homosexual or… contrived (I don’t even know what it means for a person to be contrived)? So someone out there thinks that a product you like is garbage. It happens to all of us, and we should all be thankful that it does.

    If you’re going to take the time to post a rebuttal, why not address the substance of the review, or at the very least briefly explain what you liked about the movie? Stating the genre: light hearted screwball comedy doesn’t tell us anything new, and as for “I had a nice time??!” Well, whoopdeedoo internet stranger, I’m definitely going to watch the movie now. Why did you have a nice time? Even a child (or a coworker at the water cooler) will take the time to parrot back their favorite lines when “reviewing” a movie. If you’re worried about giving something away, have no fear; it’s impossible to spoil something that went rotten ages ago.

  • JoshDM

    I was just subjected to this travesty of a film this weekend. My mom was in town and she pre-ordered that we rent it (from Netflix). We stopped it half-way through (I wanted to stop it earlier) and I sent it back ASAP. We all hated it, even though I was predisposed to hating it because I had originally wanted to rent “Adventureland”, which I believe we would have had a much better time watching.

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