Make me an offer
Cracking performances put The Proposal ahead of most romcoms, writes Donald Clarke
HAS THIS romantic comedy been deliberately counter-programmed against Antichrist? I don’t suppose the folk at Disney keep much of an eye on Danish exercises in art-house provocation, but, with its nice locations and its pretty people and its total absence of genital mutilation, The Proposal does look a little like the anti-Antichrist.
This is not to belittle the picture. Anne Fletcher, director of the likeable 27 Dresses, has shown a talent for enlivening the creakiest of clichés and, yet again, makes, if not a silk purse, shall we say a satin knapsack out of the latest pig’s ear.
The film hangs around one of those dubiously neat concepts that so often characterise contemporary romcoms. Ryan Reynolds plays an employee of a New York publishing house who, eager to get ahead, willingly endures daily indignities from his hatchet-faced boss (Sandra Bullock).
One morning, after Ms Bullock has chewed the features off another clutch of underlings, she is summoned to her own superior’s office. It seems that the fanatically driven harridan – Meryl Streep’s turn in The Devil Wears Prada casts a long shadow – is actually Canadian and, following an ill-advised visa application, she is about to be deported.
At this point, the demur Mr Reynolds pops his head through the door and, before you can say Green Card, he has agreed to pose as her fiance. They then travel to his home in Alaska and, pausing only to fall into the odd lake, make the usual journey from antipathy to affection.
Put simply, the comedy in this romantic comedy is pretty funny and the romance is pretty feeble. Reynolds, whose star has been rapidly rising, proves adept at the stunned stare, while Bullock, though stuck with an unkind, even slightly misogynistic caricature of the powerful woman, discovers just the right blend of menace and insecurity. Betty White, still magnificent at 87, employs brilliant timing to turn a bog-standard mad-old-lady role into something genuinely poignant.
Yes, the handbreak turn in the couple’s relationship is far too sudden. Sure, the denouement is absurdly protracted. But Reynolds and Bullock, a cracking double act, generate just enough innocent chuckles to keep the boat afloat. It’s certainly a better date movie than Antichrist.
Opposites attract (d’uh): Bullock and Reynolds in The Proposal