The Proposal

(2009)

by Linda Mears, Special Contributor

We here at The Parallax Review don’t like writers with agendas. After spending years reading agenda-based film reviews all over the Internet, we’ve taken upon ourselves to satirize the most popular archetypes, because anything worth changing is worth mocking. Our Special Contributors are not real people, but they might as well be.

I sometimes wonder if my life would have turned out differently if I’d been a professional. Now, I had and still have a career as a homemaker. But aside from working two summers at Lebo’s Shoe store in high school, I never had a professional job. I was never a book editor like Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock), so it’s not easy to relate to a character like that. I’d call her unrealistic — I certainly don’t know any women like her — but I can’t imagine a strong woman like Sandra Bullock not just starring in this movie but executive producing if she thought the main character didn’t accurately represent a certain kind of woman.

Margaret has an assistant, Andrew (Ryan Reynolds), who she dumps all over for no reason. The movie tries to tell us she’s stressed out because it’s hard to be a woman in a man’s world. Maybe that’s true, but it’s no excuse to be so nasty. Poor Andrew is so scared of his boss, he orders the same fancy coffee drink as she does, even though he doesn’t like it, just on the off-chance that she spills hers. This is not a woman who’s easy to relate to, let me tell you. I had a much easier time relating to Andrew, even though he’s a man, because, well… Look, my Gary’s not a monster, but he does like his dinner on time. He also likes to have control of the remote. When things go wrong, he can be hard to live with.

Not like Andrew, who’s selfless and compassionate throughout. When he discovers Margaret is a Canadian citizen about to be deported, he graciously pretends to be her fiancé. But he’s smart, too — he only agrees to help her if she helps him by getting him a promotion. Maybe that sounds slimy and self-serving, but you haven’t seen Margaret! She got off easy with this deal, believe me. But things go awry — the immigration enforcer says he’ll give them a test to see if they’re really engaged. Andrew the sweetheart already knows the answers to the questions on the test, but Margaret hasn’t bothered to learn a thing about her assistant. In order to get to know him better, they take a trip to his hometown — in Alaska!

Margaret is impressed to find out Andrew comes from a wealthy family, but I was impressed that Andrew is so down-to-earth. Still, despite their wealth, Margaret has to adjust to the isolation and small-town customs found in Alaska. The locals are eccentric, but not nearly as eccentric as the wacky gang surrounding Dr. Joel Fleischmann in Northern Exposure. They’re actually sort of boring, except for the Hispanic guy from The Office (Oscar Nuñez) as a manservant/stripper. Can you believe it?!

Andrew has some problems with his dad, played by Coach himself, Craig T. Nelson. They have a history together; a bad history, and they don’t get along. Coach is a real man’s-man type, but Andrew is very sensitive and sweet. He doesn’t want to take over the family business. He’s artistic and thoughtful, not serious and business-minded. Andrew gets so flustered by his dad that he announces a fake engagement to Margaret, surprising everyone. Suddenly, the whole family gets involved, including Andrew’s mom (Mary Steenburgen) and grandma (Betty White, still the greatest!).

Over the course of the next few days, Margaret and Andrew really do get to know each other and seem to fall in love. Ironically, by the time they’re truly in love, Coach has discovered it’s all a sham and tries to bribe the immigration enforcer. I won’t tell you what happens at the end, but suffice it to say, Andrew keeps up his charm and adorableness, and he manages to melt the “ice princess” known as Margaret Tate.

This movie made me wonder what would have happened to me if I had kept working at Lebo’s. Maybe I could have hired an employee like Andrew. Of course, I’d never be the type to manipulate and threaten him into marrying me, but what if we had fallen in love? He seems like the type of man who would treat me right and call when he’s working late or going out drinking with “the boys.” Actually, he seems like the type who wouldn’t go drinking with the boys — his boys would probably just want to watch TV, like I do. I’ll bet they would even like Grey’s Anatomy.

I watched this movie over the weekend with my son, Nicky. Nancy, his little sister, was out with her friends. She’s at that age where doing anything with Mom is considered “uncool.” You know how it is. But Nicky was home, so he sat down and watched it with me. He seemed to like it, but when I asked him about it, all he said was, “Andrew’s too good for her.” And you know what? He really is. We’re supposed to like Margaret. She’s the big star and the main character of the movie, but she’s shrill and mean for no reason. The movie strains to make us like her, telling us a lot about her past to make us feel sorry for her and relate to why she’s such a bad person. But in the end, it’s not really happy. Maybe it is for Margaret, but not for Andrew. Margaret gets the good guy, but what does Andrew get? I’d like to see them make a sequel that shows Andrew standing up for himself and breaking away from Margaret for a nice woman who will treat him right.

D. B. Bates

Linda Mears is a proud wife and mother of three wonderful children.

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