October 26, 2009

Romantic Comedy "The Proposal"

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Year: 2009
Director: Anne Fletcher

Before movie/book reviewers assign a rating, they should always make known to which standard they are comparing the work to. Likewise, before readers take this rating to heart, they should understand how the reviewers are assigning the rating numbers. In addition, a fluffy, light romance movie should not be compared to, say, Un chien andalou; a comparison between apples and oranges is meaningless.

The reason I stress this is because of two recent examples in which the reviewers were comparing apples and oranges. In the first case, I was browsing through a book review website that for the most part restricts itself to romance and fantasy novels. Yet when the site owners explain the rating system, they mention Siddhartha as an example of a book that merits a 9, full mark being 10. Does this mean that when I see a romance novel likewise being given a 9, I should automatically think it is Nobel Prize Quality? In the second case, I saw a reviewer on Douban (wiki) assigning 1s and 2s to perfectly enjoyable Hollywood-type movies and assigning highest score of 5 to those like Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (wiki). In layman terms, the movies he recommended were often pompous ones that are dressed up to be presented for Chinese movie awards, and the ones he belittled were actually what ordinary people actually watch. Speaking of Xiu Xiu, my friends' parents who also had gone to the countryside as the female main character angrily denounced it as a twisted film that intentionally exaggerates and maligns the Chinese government to curry favors at foreign film festivals. I wonder which side is right, the director or parents.

But I digress...getting on with the movie review.

The Proposal is one of the better stories in the romantic-comedy genre. Margaret Tate, played by Sandra Bullock, is a fearsome autocratic book editor at a publishing firm in New York. Her "faithful" assistant Andrew Paxton (played by Ryan Reynolds) follows her every order but trashes the editor behind her back. The story quickly takes a turn towards the hilarious when Canadian citizen Margaret is informed of her visa expiration and imminent deportation, but instead of leaving US of A and potentially losing her job, Margaret decides to marry Ryan to gain legal residency. Ryan agrees to the scam of a "brief marriage, quick divorce" because of the enticing promotion she presents to him.

To convince the skeptical immigration officers as well as Andrew's disbelieving family, who by this time have had an earful about Margaret, the two invent dating tales as they go. As befitting their characters, Margaret plows right on, while Andrew at times appear unconvinced and much put-upon. Adding to the fun is Grandma Annie, an outspoken and eccentric character who is into giving thanks to Mother Earth by dancing to the sound of drums.

For me the female main character contributed much to the watch-ability of this film. There is something about a mixture of stubbornness, independence, and also a soft vulnerability (revealed during the Alaska trip) that I like very much. Andrew's character is convincing but gets eclipsed by the more dominant Margaret.

The film has its boring trite moments, for example the bedroom scene where the two have their tête-à-tête. But these are required for plot development and are not dragged out. Even if the ending is predictable, there is plenty of comedy to compensate.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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