No one likes Margaret Tate, tyrannical editor-in-chief of a New York City book publisher in the romantic comedy “The Proposal.” When she enters her office, people start to look busy and go out of their way to avoid crossing her path. Instant messages fly across computers as employees warn their peers that “the witch is on her broom.”
Tate, played by Sandra Bullock, doesn’t let people’s feelings stand in the way of her career. She has no family, and her tough-as-nails persona has left her with no friends or relationships. The closest relationship she has – if you can call it that – is with her compliant assistant, Andrew Paxton, played by Ryan Reynolds. He obeys her every whim as he tries to get his foot in the door to advance his career. Like everyone else, Andrew can’t stand his demanding boss.
When Tate is summoned to her boss’ office, she discovers that she’s about to be deported back to Canada within days. Her solution is to force her assistant to marry her. Andrew reluctantly agrees, with the condition that he’s promoted to editor. All that remains is to convince a skeptical immigration official (Denis O’Hare) and spend the weekend with Andrew’s family, who live in Sitka, Alaska.
Judging by all the businesses bearing the Paxton name, Andrew’s family seems to own the town of Sitka. His father (Craig T. Nelson) expects his son to take over the businesses when he’s done playing in New York City, but Andrew has made it clear that this isn’t what he wants to do. Mary Steenburgen does her best as Andrew’s mom, but there’s not a lot fleshed out for her character. Although she seems miscast for the role, Betty White is one of the highlights of the movie as Andrew’s outspoken 90-year-old Grandma Annie. When she meets Tate at the airport, she asks if she prefers to be called Margaret or Satan’s mistress. Eventually, Mom and Grandma warm up to Tate and push the couple to tie the knot while they’re in Alaska.
Tate is the kind of person who will say or do whatever it takes to get what she wants. If she’s deceptive, that’s part of the game. As she grows to love Andrew’s family, she realizes that deception carries consequences. She knows Andrew’s mother and grandmother will be crushed when they learn that the marriage was a sham, and that’s proving to be more than she can bear.
“The Proposal” has a number of amusing scenes that work because the actors are talented and know how to milk the laughs. And Bullock and Reynolds have a great antagonistic chemistry that’s fun to watch. But there are too many points in the movie that strain credibility. How can the highly organized Margaret not take care of her paperwork to stay in the country? How does everything transpire in one weekend when you figure in air travel and layovers to fly from New York to a small Alaskan town without a major airport?
Ultimately, “The Proposal” left me as confused as Andrew’s father, who couldn’t fathom why his son would marry his ruthless employer. It’s difficult to believe that Andrew, who has grown to despise this difficult woman for three years, would fall madly in love with her in less than two days, especially after he returns home to learn his former girlfriend is still available and pining for him. Only in the movies.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and language.
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Pete Chiarelli
Cast: Sandra Bullock: Margaret Tate; Ryan Reynolds: Andrew Paxton; Mary Steenburgen: Grace Paxton; Craig T. Nelson: Joe Paxton; Betty White: Grandma Annie; Denis O’Hare: Mr. Gilbertson; Gertrude: Malin Akerman; Ramone: Oscar Nuñez; Aasif Mandvi: Bob Spaulding; Michael Nouri: Chairman Bergen.
The movie’s official web site is here.
Michael Leathers the copy editor for EthicsDaily.com and the former editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.