27. The Proposal, directed by
Anne Fletcher

27. The Proposal, directed by
Anne Fletcher

Why Blackmail is Always a Good Idea

By Rose Marel


When two comedic powerhouses marry, namely Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, The Proposal is born. Literally, as the pair set off to get hitched in Fletcher’s film. Maybe then, we should say three powerhouses, giving Fletcher the credit for confidently guiding this film into Box Office-hit territory. Like many of the other crowd-pleasing rom-coms that have come before, The Proposal doesn’t require much effort or concentration, and doesn’t delve into water that’s too deep (at all). If what you’re after is just some good old-fashioned fun, then roll on up, and continue rolling with some silly and wholly unbelievable scenarios that, nevertheless, make for some great giggles.

Margaret (Bullock) is a top-notch editor at a top-notch publishing firm, who also happens to be known within said firm as a monster and/or poisonous bitch. The minion beneath her reign is Andrew (Reynolds), the type of assistant who has backups of backups, knows what he needs to know, and knows even what he doesn’t need to know (just in case!). He’s a sacrificer who clings to the hope that one day his work will all be acknowledged. Only, it’s been three years of unsung slaving, and Margaret still can’t seem to pronounce words like “thank you”.

The tables are turned within the space of a single meeting when Margaret’s superiors inform her that she’s about to be deported back to Canada, jobless. The further rub of salt is the news that she’ll be replaced by the man she just fired. A quick thinking, rash stab of desperation leads Margaret to assuring them that she is, in fact, getting married to Andrew. Deportation is unneeded, they are in love, happy days! Only, it turns out this little white lie is required to be legal, and Margaret marches out of the meeting determined to bully Andrew into it, who meanwhile looks about ready to kill himself if he knew what the hell was going on. Until words like “jail” and “fraud” are thrown into the mix and he realises that for the first time, Margaret undeniably needs him. Her blackmail of him promptly cartwheels into his blackmail of her, with Andrew agreeing to get married only if she promotes him into a fully-fledged editor.

And so from there it becomes an unfolding of the pair discovering each other – as needed for an official interview to confirm they are legitimate in their love – on a weekend away at Andrew’s parent’s Alaskan home. The major plotlines do seem reminiscent of ghosts of rom-coms past (Greencard; boss from hell; falling in love over one magical weekend…) but the chemistry between Margaret and Andrew gleams with humour and authenticity, and if the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, then why should we?

A great deal of the comedy derives from the physicality of the actors and their awkward interrelations. This discomfort around each other, which is only amplified by the surreal situation, is so fabulously visual. Bullock’s jolting movements and formal attempts at gestures of love are only enhanced by Reynolds facial expressions of repressed, flared-nostril humiliation. The physical space between them, too, maintains this air of painful unease.

This attention to visual humour could perhaps have been informed by Fletcher’s dancing background, enabling her to almost choreograph the physicality in a way that reflects their relationship. Clever use of their spatial awareness in shots further adds to their initial disconnection, only to be eventually broken down. To begin, they are often separated, with each character in their own isolated shot, or occasionally, jarringly thrust together side by side, two stiff boards in a frame. As the film progresses, along with their closeness, the pair begins to share the shot. Thus, more than just character arcs, there’s a real relationship arc, which is always just as enjoyable to watch.

It’s always difficult to tell how much the director and actor collaborated with specific choices, but some of Bullock’s character specificities were brilliant – the sky-high heels and body-constricting dresses heightened the humour as she attempts to fit in with Andrew’s down-to-earth family. Climbing down a ladder suddenly becomes ten times more difficult in LV stilettos. Margaret’s gradual thawing is also well done, while Reynolds brings a bucketful of personality and empathy to the role of Andrew.

Director Anne Fletcher on set with Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock.

Unfortunately, the stereotypical construct of a female in power equating to a stone cold bitch is somewhat perpetuated in The Proposal. Maybe it can be forgiven here, however, as this typecast is later unpeeled, scene by scene, most tenderly in the bedroom scene where in separate beds, not forced to look at each other, Margaret begins to expose the truth behind her past and reveal her vulnerability. All those cold moments from earlier now become more touching as we glimpse inside her truth to understand the struggles that inform her present. Possibly even, Margaret was the one who believed that in order to succeed, she had to fulfil that clichéd role.

Overall, the over-the-top scenarios are difficult to ignore. The entire premise is silly, but it’s all in good fun. There are plenty of laughs to be had, plot lines to be happily predicted and a good few hours to be enjoyed. Sometimes all you’re after in a film is entertainment, and in that regard, this delightful rom-com delivers. If this were a food it would be popcorn – a thoughtless, easy to eat snack that is nevertheless satisfying.

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