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The Proposal Review: A Refreshingly Charming Romantic Comedy Gem

Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds Ignite Sparkling Chemistry in This Delightfully Witty Modern Fairy Tale

The Proposal Review

Every so often, a romantic comedy comes along that transcends the genre's well-trodden clichés and predictable beats to arrive at something refreshingly charming and delightfully effervescent. The kind of modern fairy tale that reminds you why you fell in love with these crowd-pleasing confections in the first place. For me, that film is the utterly winning 2009 gem The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds at their most disarmingly charismatic.

From its opening scenes introducing us to Bullock's icy book editor Margaret Tate - a steely, mercilessly demanding gatekeeper to the literary world who treats her publishing minions with contemptuous disdain - director Anne Fletcher establishes a comedic environment ripe for maximum romantic escalation. When Margaret's Canadian visa is revoked due to an expired application, desperation leads her to coerce her put-upon assistant Andrew Paxton (Reynolds) into agreeing to a sham green-card marriage to circumvent deportation and keep her high-powered job intact.

What follows is a finely calibrated dance of comedic one-upmanship and escalating romantic tensions as this gleefully mismatched pair jet off from New York to Andrew's idyllic Alaskan hometown of Sitka for the ruse's federal vetting. As both Margaret and Andrew must convince his tight-knit, eccentric family (including a delightfully feisty Betty White as his 90-year-old grandmother) of their newly betrothed status, they become forced into unwitting intimacy.

Naturally, they discover a surprising rapport, emotional vulnerabilities emerge, and by the time obstacles threaten to derail their charade, real affection has taken root. It's a charming subversion of the classic romantic comedy formula - a high-wire act where the big glamorous city workaholic finds her frigid demeanor gradually melted by the regenerative powers of small-town charm and homespun warmth.

The Ultimate Vehicle for a Sandra Bullock Renaissance

Of course, Bullock has always been one of modern cinema's most gifted farceurs, even when saddled with subpar material or roles that diminish her brightest abilities. But in The Proposal, she taps directly into the dazzling comedic radiance and effervescent romantic aura that first made her a star back in the 90s - summoning the same incandescent magnetism that once yielded speed and Miss Congeniality into box office smashes.

It's a performance of such unaffected naturalism and lived-in transparency that her character's icy book world shrew instantly becomes as multi-faceted and irresistibly human as her heroines in films like While You Were Sleeping or Bullock's Oscar-winning turn in The Blind Side. Margaret is never reductively played as a stock villainous or hopelessly crude stereotype. Even when clawing for survival or projecting withering corporate disdain, Bullock embeds her with relatable vulnerability and hard-won steeliness.

We see the wound behind her workaholic defenses - the resignation to a solitary existence walled off from genuine intimacy presumably born of past disappointments. Bullock imbues her with a sort of indomitable resilience that makes Margaret seem almost heroic at times in her pursuit of unfettered ambition and success on her own merciless terms. Much like Katharine Hepburn brought grit and agency to her iconically headstrong romantic heroines, Bullock gives this modern alpha female character soulful dimensions and ultimately makes her rootable - to the point where we desperately want Andrew to be the one to finally melt away her calcified emotional armor for good.

Bullock has rarely been better, injecting reams of wordless emotional transparency into each situation threatening to derail Margaret's defenses and managing the trickiest of tonal shifts with graceful aplomb. Whether drunkenly ranting about multigenerational angst over a few too many cocktails or openly lamenting solitude in quiet conversations with White's sage matriarch, Bullock brings the perfect admixture of brittle prickliness and boundless inner warmth to each scene. It's one of her most human, most relatable characters - a full dimensional symphony of caustic one-liners and richly observed earned pathos rendered sublime.

Ryan Reynolds Arrives as a Romantic Leading Man

Of course, for such a transcendent heroine to fully blossom, she requires an equally grounded foil bringing soulful intuition and playful perspective. Enter Ryan Reynolds, delivering what still stands as his most charismatic and effortlessly winning performance to date as Andrew Paxton. The role not only marked a true breakout for the former heartthrob into full-fledged bankable leading man status, it perfectly showcased his rare gift for roguish romantic comedy timing and flair.

From the moment he's goaded into Margaret's increasingly outlandish charade, Reynolds imbues Andrew with shrewd self-awareness and wry detachment - the kind of appealing humility that keeps him centered even amidst the story's most farcical escalations. You see the bristling competitiveness fueling his professional strivings, the resigned bemusement over his overbearing high-society family's casual dysfunction, and the innate decency shaping his reactions to Margaret's increasingly conniving schemes with the intuitive clarity of an old friend.

Reynolds is an open book of quippy self-deprecation, gruff integrity, and surprisingly tender romantic transparency from the very start. His effortless charisma, quicksilver delivery, and uncommon restraint as an actor keeps Andrew endearingly irreverent yet accessible. This is the sort of grounded authenticity that most male romantic comedy performers could only dream of achieving - a pitch-perfect balance of assured comic timing, lived-in looseness, and undeniable sensitivity that elevates what might have been a basic stock archetype into a romantic ideal you cannot help but swoon over.

In their combined chemistry and the way Reynolds and Bullock volley loaded looks, revelatory mumbled conversational crumbs, and knowingly indulgent exchanges, the duo conjure something transcendently authentic and sweet. They quite simply seem not like characters enacting a story so much as two destined soulmates being awakened to the fanciful allure of grand romantic possibility through a series of escalating divine interventions. It's the sort of undeniable on-screen connection and tactile immediacy that renders nearly all of the film's more heightened comic set pieces that much more charming and oddly convincing.

An Irresistible Supporting Cast of Comedic Gems

Speaking of which, the buoyant comic escalations presented by the unfolding ruse unquestionably derive much of their ebullient radiance from the array of infectiously daffy supporting players littered throughout Sitka. Each family member, townie eccentric, or dubiously meddling federal agent tasked with vetting the characters' ruse adds vivid texture and endless comic delight to The Proposal's otherwise by-the-numbers rom-com plotting.

While Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson imbue Andrew's supportive and gruff parents with requisite warmth as sounding boards for the couple's romantic foibles, it's Betty White who steals every single scene she's in as Grandma Annie. The iconic comedienne summons up every ounce of her incomparable improv sharpness and sly subversive anarchy to make this blunt-spoken ball-buster an enduring scene stealer no matter how derivative the set piece might be on paper. Nothing energizes this quirky universe quite like White cutting loose and puncturing prim comportment with strategically weaponized senility and still sparklingly sharp-tongued jabs.

But Fletcher also draws laugh-out-loud supporting work from actors like Denis O'Hare as the dubiously motivated federal agent convinced of Andrew and Margaret's fraudulence, along with scene-swiping cameos from Patricia Portwood and Aasif Mandvi as incorrigibly colorful locals blissfully indifferent to their visitors' chaotic romantic deceptions. With each new introductory character, Fletcher conjures lived-in humanity and enhances the frontier town backdrop into something as authentically whimsical as any fairy tale, rich with eccentrics lending daffy texture to each grand romantic complication.

The Proposal represents a pitch-perfect romantic comedy that generates sublime laughs not from a place of cynicism or irony, but earnest, lived-in celebration of human idiosyncrasy and the transformative power of true connection. From White's geriatric scamp constantly reminding us of life's fleeting sweetnesses to Andrew's single mom diner owner buddy and the unapologetically blunt senior set who constantly keep our core lovers on their toes, the texture lent to the film by its sprawling compendium of supporting crazies elevates it into something deliriously charming and self-contained. It's a warm, inviting, extremely cozy universe of oddballs you simply want to curl up within for the radiant charm and familial unconditional acceptance they represent.

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An Unabashedly Old-Fashioned Romantic Comedy For A New Generation

And perhaps that's ultimately the sweetest magic trick The Proposal pulls off so elegantly. For at its barest essence, Fletcher's rom-com reverie fully embraces deliriously old-fashioned fairy tale aspirations about the blinding powers of amour fou while repackaging its genteel, swooningly aspirational epiphanies in a distinctly modern vernacular and perspective. From the moment Margaret tumbles into Andrew's scenic Alaskan hometown, the film deftly subverts Fish-Out-of-Water crassness to chart a more textured emotional awakening amidst the bountiful greenery and crisp natural vistas surrounding our heroine.

This is no high-handed cultural satire about liberal secularists meeting rubes and finding renewal. Instead, Fletcher charts a kind of nondenominational spiritual rebirth for Margaret - one defined by reconnecting with the natural world and underscored by the reverence with which cinematographer Oliver Stapleton captures Sitka's vistas. There's a quietly spiritual grandeur to the sweeping forest greens surrounding Margaret


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