Proposal, The (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and language.
Length: 108 minutes
Grade: DC-D+D=D
Budget: $40 million
Box Office: $296 million (164 U.S., 132 Intl.)

Written by: Peter Chiarelli (First script)
Directed by: Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses, Step Up)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Malin Ackerman, and Denis O’Hare.

Facing deportation for overstaying her visa, a Canadian senior editor of a huge New York publishing firm coerces her assistant to fake a marriage to obtain citizenship. Evading a skeptical immigration agent takes the couple to the guy’s family in Alaska, where she rediscovers her humanity.

Entertainment Value: D
I will admit I laughed, even a few times. The problem here was how seam-ful the whole movie was. Every element of it was absurd and hackneyed, from the ridiculous small-town tubby male stripper to the weird scene with Betty White and Sandra Bullock shaking their booty to the Earth goddess in the woods to an on-screen romance so indigestible to the emotional attachments the movie had previously created that I couldn’t even begin to believe it. I didn’t care about any these characters, all of which seemed remarkably shallow and stereotypical. I was prepared to give it a C until the ending which ruined what was otherwise a merely mediocre movie. I cried with sadness but not surprise to see this movie made $300 million.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity D+, Violence B, Language C+
There’s some drinking and a scene at a bar. Language is PG-13, but relatively light for that rating, although they could easily have made this movie without any at all. Violence is slapstick, except for a heart attack. The real issue here is sexuality. Therre are plenty of sexual innuendo and sexual reference jokes. Sandra Bullock is naked but for her hands covering her during an extended scene which just seemed strange. An overweight male stripper dances absurdly for several minutes in a sexual way. PG-13 is right.

Significant Content: D+
Even though you might think you can treat marriage trivially, it’s harder to do so when you really come to doing it. Professional success can make a woman into a horrible person. Small towns are generally healthy and wonderful, if a bit eccentric. Lawbreaking is okay if it makes sense to you. Celibacy is mostly involuntary and lamentable. Children must pursue what matters to them, not let their parents’ control their destiny. Nonetheless, family is really important, and experiencing what real love looks like will make us care about other people.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
The key to working an audience is staying true to the characters even as they grow and change. In this case, you have to jettison everything you learn about Margaret in the first 90 minutes in order to make the final 15 minutes make any sense. But the change is more of a kidnapping rather than a metamorphoses, and it completely failed to bring me along. Also, why do mid-40s established actresses like Sandra Bullock and Marissa Tomei feel the need to get naked when they make films? I just don’t get it. And although I like Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson, what I want to know is whether either of them can play any part besides the role they always play. As I mentioned before, the hackneyed feel here kept me very much at a distance from the movie.

Discussion Questions:
~Our culture takes for granted that dads who impose their goals on their children are evil, and children must be allowed to pursue their own plans. What do you think? What perspective does the 5th Commandment have to offer here? Is this movie encouraging people to be disrespectful to their fathers?
~Discuss Joe’s actions with regards to the immigration agent. Did he do the right thing? Considering how things turned out, what do you say?
~What do you make of the scene with the male stripper? Is he being ridiculed, lusted after, celebrated, or what? Is he a symbol for small towns compared with a place like New York? Is that a metaphor small towns would embrace?
~Do the revelations about her life make you see Margaret in a significantly different light?
~Did Andrew do the right thing by moving away to New York? Are his criticisms of his father fair?
~Why would a fake marriage be so hard on a family? Could you deceive your family that way?
~What motivates Margaret to do what she does in the end? What does this say about the power of witnessing love? Is she basically good inside? Are all people basically good inside? What does this movie seem to be saying about that?
~This movie clearly shows the evils of Margaret’s careerism, but what do you think about the behavior and debasement which Andrew engages in to get the career he wants? To which of these characters is their career more of an idol?
~Does the entire premise of the movie being predicated on fraudulently breaking the law bother you here? Does it matter that this was averted by a moral epiphany rather than a new realization about the importance of honoring the law?
Overall Grade: D
The Devil Wears Prada meets Green Card on the set of Northern Exposure, with very little of what made both of those movies and that wonderful television show so entertaining. Allow me to note, however, that apparently a lot of other people really loved this movie. Well, Two and a Half Men is a highly successful comedy in the ratings, isn’t it?

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