Make me an of­fer

Crack­ing per­for­mances put The Pro­posal ahead of most rom­coms, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

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

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