Sunday, December 27, 2009

Home Video: The Proposal

The Proposal
Directed by Anne Fletcher
Released June 19, 2009

It’s great to have a lead character you can really hate. The reason that stories like "A Christmas Carol," television shows like "All in the Family," and films like "The Devil Wears Prada" work is that you love to hate the main characters. They’re so detestable that it’s fun to root for their downfall, and equally enjoyable to see them crush someone’s spirits because they seem to get such elation out of doing it. A protagonist that doesn’t possess any of those impressive qualities and is simply not likeable is hardly going to be as appealing. You won’t love to hate her, you’ll just hate her, and therefore you can’t root for her and couldn’t possibly be interested in whether or not she finds happiness.

The Proposal suffers from these problems in an irrecoverable way. Sandra Bullock plays against type as a book publishing executive focused solely on her career and stomping on the dreams of others in order to get ahead and thrive. The charming and loveable Bullock isn’t playing her usual darling self, and this new role doesn’t suit her at all. She’s not really mean enough or funny at all in her cruelty, and the only reason to root for her is to see the old familiar Bullock shine through the guise of the character she’s clearly only temporarily adopting.

Her costar Ryan Reynolds isn’t exactly helpful. He’s not terribly strong in the acting abilities department, and in many ways, he’s even less sympathetic than Bullock. The two make a dismal romantic pair, and the attempts to convey their path towards bonding and coupling fall horrendously short of believable. The film has a good premise – a career-driven Canadian employee forces her subordinate to marry her so that she can stay in the country and he can continue to advance his career – but it executes it inadequately.

Instead of focusing on Bullock’s comedic strengths and letting Reynolds appear as anything but a wimp, the movie devolves into a series of unfunny, overdone, predictable plot twists. The fact that Reynolds’ character lives in Alaska and that the fake couple has to go there almost within hours of deciding to put on the charade seems insanely rushed, and things only get worse once they get there. All of the characters are hopelessly muted and not one of them seems to actually have a backbone. There are two dreadful exceptions, and one of them is Betty White, whose role as Reynolds’ grandmother could have included a few zingers but instead mostly features her chanting in the woods like a crazy person. She could have been used in a much smarter fashion. The other is Denis O’Hare as the investigator intent on proving that their marriage is a sham, and he’s simply cartoonish and annoying the whole time. There’s no one to sympathize with or root for because all of the characters are so dull and bland. This film wasn’t a bad idea, but everything is done so poorly that it’s a miserable experience from start to finish.


No comments: