THE PROPOSAL ***
MARGARET TATE (SANDRA BULLOCK) is your prototypical successful New York ice queen.
She is the sleek, glamorous, magnificently polished senior editor at Coledon Books. Margaret wears expensive beautiful suits with perfectly matched five hundred dollar stilettos. Her voluminous designer bags cost at least that much.
Her makeup is always flawless and her long thick dark hair is highlighted and streaked with a tasteful shade of auburn.
She’s driven, tough and she does her job exceptionally well. But she’s business like, brittle and by the book.
Half the people in the office are terrified of her. The remainder hate her guts.
At the beginning of the film, a managing editor of lesser stature is coolly dismissed by her. His anger has been building up for years. He has a huge public showdown with her in front of all the other employees. Margaret smiles bitterly and takes him down in two seconds flat.
Her response to his virtual blackmail is to state evenly that she fired him with cause and for good reason. She’s completely aware of the fact that he spends more time twiddling his thumbs in his office and cheating on his wife than he does paying attention to his actual position.
If he doesn’t back down immediately, she will have him thrown out and his humiliating exit will be made into a YouTube video.
He gulps deeply and disappears. Margaret is done with him for good.
Then she’s on her merry way.
Her assistant ANDREW PAXTON (RYAN REYNOLDS) is complicit in the grand scale fear and loathing. Andrew is a young ambitious guy carefully climbing the precarious ladder of success. He’s written a book that he wants published. If it weren’t for his career goals he would find Margaret completely intolerable.
He was supposed to go home for the weekend to celebrate his grandmother’s 90th birthday.
Margaret tells him he has to work…and so does she. When she comes in later he’s on the phone to his loved ones explaining.
“Was that your family?” she inquires.
“Did they tell you to quit?”
“Every single day,” he mutters darkly.
But you never know what may be in store for you…
Later that day, Margaret is called into the executive suite. The bosses have nothing but respect for her. She’s efficient and the company makes money because of her.
But it turns out that Margaret is technically a foreigner. She’s Canadian by birth.
She is informed that, due to a recent trip to Germany she took that violated her landed immigrant status, she must be deported back to her native country…effective within a few days.
The head guys want her to stay. But the law states unequivocally that she must remain in Canada for at least a year. During that time, she is not allowed to be employed by an American firm.
They have no choice but to let her go and reinstate the man that she just fired.
Andrew is attractive and single. There is an overriding mutual revulsion between them. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
Thinking quickly and on the fly, Margaret tells the bosses that she and Andrew have been dating seriously for months and that their two sided grandly designed disdain is merely a cover for discretion in the office.
They are actually getting married.
The execs are overjoyed. Margaret can keep her job.
But there’s one big problem. They really do hate each other.
After they leave the meeting, Andrew rebels. He is shocked that Margaret would try to make them believe such a ridiculous story. She assures him that she isn’t crazy about it either. But it’s strictly out of necessity and they will get a divorce as soon as possible.
Andrew realizes his time has come. He negotiates for better pay, an editorship and the publishing of his beloved book.
Margaret is open to all of that. But she promises nothing up front.
They go to see MR. GILBERTSON (the slyly brilliant DENIS O’HARE), the immigration officer in charge of their case. He’s sharper than a razor and he knows every trick in the book.
He accuses them of scamming. He says if that is found to be true then Andrew will be sent to prison for five years as well as being subject to an enormous fine. Margaret will be deported permanently and will never be allowed to return to the U.S.
He informs them gleefully that he has a series of interviews for them to pass at various levels. If they fail at any point in time, the ominous conditions that he spoke of go into effect immediately.
Mr. Gilbertson is determined to bring them down. He will do it by any means necessary.
Margaret decides that she will go home with Andrew so that their story will stick to the wall. She is outraged when she discovers that he is originally from Alaska.
She’s a city girl who enjoys her possessions along with a cosmopolitan lifestyle.
To her great surprise, she finds out that Andrew is from a wealthy family. His father has never forgiven him for fleeing to New York and choosing his literary dreams over the Paxton empire.
There has always been an enormous amount of friction between father and son. Andrew’s mother is caught in the middle.
In Alaska, Margaret and Andrew discover many unexpected things about each other. This makes their situation even more difficult. They can handle it effectively if it’s a business arrangement. The marriage can be dissolved when it’s convenient and they can get on with their individual lives.
But what if they actually start to enjoy being together? What happens next?
SANDRA BULLOCK has an engaging, likable presence with a genuine flair for comedy. Most of her films have been formulaic junk.
But she absolutely does wonders with this particular role. She may possess more range than is immediately apparent.
RYAN REYNOLDS shows a great deal of potential. He has an interesting quality as well as being tremendously charming and amusing.
One of the great joys of this movie is the spectacular chemistry between Ms. Bullock and Mr. Reynolds. The genre lives and dies on that principle. If it’s not in evidence, you can’t manufacture it.
These two have it in spades.
But as good as they are here – and they’re both rather exceptional – every single scene is stolen by the delightfully hilarious BETTY WHITE (who plays Andrew’s grandmother ANNIE).
One of her line readings was met with hysterical laughter and a round of spontaneous applause.
She was fantastic.
I’m starting my campaign now: BETTY WHITE for BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS.
As well, the fabulous DENIS O’HARE is a superbly conniving MR. GILBERTSON. He was excellent in both MILK and DUPLICITY and is always marvelous fun to watch. He adds a great deal to any motion picture that he appears in.
Director ANNE FLETCHER – who is also an actor – has come a long way from the pathetic dance flick (Step Up) that she previously helmed. She seems to understand this story and the people involved. She and writer PETE CHIARELLI are able to imbue this romantic comedy with a certain amount of darkness and depth.
Is it predictable? Yes. In order to fit into the proper confines of the genre, it effectively has to be – to one degree or the other.
But Margaret and Andrew are grown ups. Like everyone else, they’re products of their environment, upbringing and experience. Those circumstances have shaped their personalities and made them who they are as individuals. So it was interesting to be able to understand their motivations and to comprehend their behaviour. You can genuinely care about these people.
Make sure you stay for more good times as the end credits roll. You won’t want to miss it.
You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. See it. Savour it.
THE PROPOSAL is a marvelously tasty summer proposition.