June 22, 2009

Weekend In Reviews

The Proposal - I have no problem admitting when I like a bad movie. I freaking LOVE New York Minute (the Olsen Twins people!) and that movie is terrible. So I'm going to be honest, I was expecting to have to write THAT kind of review about The Proposal. The kind where I have to talk about all the shit that's wrong with the movie and then defend why I like it anyway. Turns out though, that it's completely unnecessary because the movie is really funny.

This movie was made as about 95% of chick flicks are - beginning with a premise that is tailor-made to create sexual tension between two people in as artificial a way as possible. Margaret (Sandra Bullock) is a tight-ass, ball-busting, career-obsessed, love-eschewing Canadian working for a New York publishing firm. Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) is her long-suffering assistant who puts up with a ridiculous amount of her shit in the hopes that he'll someday be promoted to editor. When Margaret fails to follow the procedures for securing her work visa (because one of her many personality flaws at the outset of the film is that she thinks she can just get what she wants if she's bitchy enough), she faces immediate deportation (and dismissal from her job) if she doesn't do something. So she whips up an engagement to her assistant with the agreement that if he goes along with it, she'll give him his promotion and after a few months, they'll get a divorce and everyone will be happy.

So Margaret is bitchy and she treats Andrew badly and Andrew takes it, but he doesn't necessarily suffer silently. He is sarcastic and frank and, after being roped into the engagement, he's actually a bit of an asshole to her in retribution for all that he's put up with from her in the past. But this isn't to say that it's non-stop bitchery - there is an underlying affection to their sniping all along which makes the (SPOILER ALERT) eventual realization that they love each other believable instead of seemingly fabricated out of nothing at all for the sake of a happy ending.

At the start of the movie, Andrew spills Margaret's coffee all over himself and so gives her his when she arrives. She notices that it has his name on it instead of hers and razzes him for drinking "cinnamon soy lattes" just like her. He denies ordering the same drink "just in case" but she knows better and gives him a very hard time. There is a light-heartedness to the teasing that conveys as much camaraderie as it does antagonism. And once he's agreed to marry her and begins to take advantage of his new-found upper hand in their relationship, he continues to act pretty diligently as her assistant (ensuring that she gets a new cell phone when hers is stolen by an eagle for example) while still taking every opportunity to let her know he will no longer be treated as her bitch.

The engagement takes the two of them to Citka, Alaska to spend the weekend with Andrew's family who, it turns out, are wealthy entrepreneurs. His father (Craig T. Nelson) would like him to stop screwing around in New York and come home to take over the family business empire but his mother (Mary Steenburgen) and grandmother (Betty White) just want him to be married and happy. Spending time with a family does a lot to melt Margaret's heart which she's kept in the deep-freeze since her own parents died when she was 16. At the same time, Andrew begins to see Margaret not just has his bitchy, demanding boss but as a person with a history and a heart.

It's an enjoyable love story but more than that, it's an entertaining comedy starring some of the funniest people in movies. Ryan Reynolds sells sarcasm quite a bit better than most with straight-faced reaction shots that I defy anyone not to laugh at. Sandra Bullock is not afraid to make an ass of herself for the sake of a laugh and it works most of the time. Meanwhile, Betty White is a comedic genius and that's all there is to it.

I highly recommend this one - even at $10 a pop to see it in the theater. Which I'm pretty sure I'll do at least one more time. Maybe two or three.

Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo - I really love Russo's writing and the way that his books are about people and their lives rather than about a particular event. This book was a great combination of Straight Man and Empire Falls for me - not quite as funny as the former or as dramatic as the latter.

I found every character in the book likable in some way though all of them are immensely flawed. Russo writes about these people with kindness and affection even while letting us know how broken or wretched they are. It says something lovely about a writer when he can create sympathy for a woman who refers to her 5-year-old daughter only as Birdbrain.

I know that my fellow book-clubbers may not have enjoyed the book as much as I did, or maybe didn't get a chance to finish it in a short book club month. But I'm still very excited to discuss it this evening. And even more excited to watch the movie version and compare. I hear it was excellent and the casting of Paul Newman as Sully is spot-on, I think.

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