DVD Review: “The Proposal”

Written by DVD Reviews, Film

proposalThe Proposal (2009, Touchstone)
purchase from Amazon: Deluxe DVD Edition | Blu-ray

Sandra Bullock is at the top of her game and Ryan Reynolds gives one of his best performances to date in the romantic comedy The Proposal. This funny, sweet and beautifully shot film is released today on DVD and Blue-Ray.

Reynolds plays Andrew, a degraded executive assistant at a publishing company working for bitch on heels, Margaret (Bullock). Although it’s a lowly job, Andrew understands that if he can survive his tenure with the reviled Margaret, he’ll eventually be promoted to book editor. As the film opens, Margaret has a huge dilemma: Through a visa violation she’s about to be deported back to her native Canada, and she’ll losing her job and reputation. In a moment of desperation, she lies to her bosses and U.S. Immigration that she and Andrew are actually engaged, thus meaning she can stay in the U.S. Andrew only goes along with her plan on the condition he gets his promotion. However, the government expects her to prove their engagement is real. To further perpetuate the scam, Margaret must accompany Andrew back to his home state of Alaska for his grandmother’s 90th birthday.  From there, Peter Chiarelli’s script becomes a fun fish out of water story as Margaret the ice queen’s heart slowly melts.

Once they arrive in Andrew’s small Alaskan hometown, Margaret quickly learns that Andrew isn’t the man she thought he was and gains new respect for him.  She gets to see the loving relationship he has with his mother, Grace (the always adorable Mary Steenburgen) and his rambunctious grandma (a riotous Betty White). Besides the tension created by Andrew and Margaret lying about their relationship, there is the strained relationship Andrew has with his father, Joe (an excellent Craig T. Nelson).  Joe looks at Andrew’s literary pursuits as a whim and is impatiently waiting for his son to return home and take over the family business empire.

As with any romantic comedy, you know Andrew and Margaret are going to fall for each other. Unlike many rom coms, which tend to be flatly shot and plainly directed, The Proposal does have some subtlety, such as the moment Andrew and Margaret begin to fall in love. During an especially well-shot sequence, director Anne Fletcher uses the camera to convey the two of them getting closer. It’s the middle of the night, and Margaret is in the bed, with Andrew sprawled on the floor.  Fletcher uses the widescreen to her advantage. Through just two close-up shots, one of Bullock and the other Reynolds, each positioned on opposite sides of the wide screen (Bullock to the far left and Reynolds to the far right) Fletcher cuts back and forth between the two close-ups as the characters speak and react to what the other is saying. Meanwhile, the camera slowly moves, repositioning the actors so that in the end of the sequence, Reynolds is now on the far left and Bullock is on the far right. At this point, when cutting back and forth between the two close-ups, it appears as if Reynolds and Bullock are lying next to each other and not different places in the room. It’s a touching sequence thanks to the deft camerawork of DP Oliver Stapleton and Chiarelli’s effective dialogue.

Besides the romance, The Proposal is consistently full of laugh-out-loud moments. I’m thinking of Bullock and Reynolds falling down on the floor in the buff in one of the funniest nude scenes I’ve seen in awhile, or Oliver Nunez’s exotic dance, or Bullock and Betty White dancing around a fire, asking the spirits to bless them. White practically steals the movie whenever she’s on camera.  After all these years White is still a master of comic timing and perfect joke delivery. I would say the only person who upstages Betty White is Nunez (The Office) as Ramone, the town’s resident hardware salesman/minister/ male exotic dancer. Nunez makes the most of his limited screen time, but like any good supporting actor, he never upstages his leads.

In the end, though, this film succeeds thanks to the pairing of Reynolds and Bullock. We’ve all come to expect Sandra Bullock to create winning performances in this type of movie. She always brings heart to the roles she plays, making it difficult to hate even someone as unlikable as Margaret. Reynolds is on a winning streak, having done nice work in the underrated Definitely Maybe, his supporting part in Adventureland and his limited time on screen during X-Men Origins: Wolverine. We’re seeing an actor come into his own. His career trajectory reminds me a lot of Tom Hanks, who also came from a television sitcom, graduated to zany movie comedies, and then became one of our most trusted and beloved actors. I honestly believe that Reynolds has the talent to become one of this generation’s great performers. I’m not saying he’ll win an Oscar for Green Lantern, but if he continues to turn out great performances like he does in The Proposal, who knows what will happen? Together, Reynolds and Bullock have the chemistry of old pros; they play off one another so easily I would love to see them in more films together. If you long for the days of Hepburn and Tracy, you should do yourself a favor and check out what Bullock and Reynolds accomplish in this movie.

As much as I loved this movie, The Proposal isn’t without some faults. Malin Akerman is wasted in the underdeveloped role of Andrew’s high school sweetheart, and the ending goes on for too long and gets convoluted (I wish the filmmakers had stuck closer to the original ending, which is included as a bonus feature on the DVD). Still, the bright spots outweigh the shortcomings, and any film that keeps my wife and I laughing and holding hands well past midnight is doing all the right things.

In addition to the alternate ending, the bonus features on the DVD deluxe edition include deleted scenes, outtakes from the shoot, commentary from director Fletcher and screenwriter Chiarelli and  digital copy of the movie you can upload onto your computer.