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!
Sitka looks nice, though.