Sandra Bullock

The Proposal (2009)

The Proposal will be celebrating its tenth birthday next year, and as I rewatch it in 2018, I see that it doesn’t so much shine a light on naked Ryan Reynolds as it does on the conversation around American immigration. The premise rests on formidable editor’s imminent deportation to Canada, which she fights by arranging a quickie wedding with her assistant. Despite violating previous immigration orders and engaging in a sham relationship, INS actually goes along with the charade, grants the woman an interview, and proceeds as if everything was aboveboard – even after she admits to the fraud!

Are You Serious? [insert massive side eye] ICE is rounding up people left and right, and this is the immigration story we get? I know it’s Hollywood, I know it’s fake, and I know it was made in 2009, but it’s also incredibly sobering to watch in these times. The Proposal can only exist with a white Canadian protagonist. If you were to cast an actress any shade darker, this movie would be neither a romance nor a comedy. We’d have a straight up tragedy on our hands.

This is where reality leaves us, even if you can salvage parts. You can still appreciate the charisma and chemistry of lead actors, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Bullock is an ice queen as Margaret Tate, but her character melts damn quick when she starts opening up to her assistant cum fiancé during a weekend trip to Sitka, Alaska. Likewise, Reynolds is at his romcom peak. He plays, Andrew, the long-suffering writer and editor who endures his boss’s abuse in the hopes of securing a plum publishing job. The two eviscerate each other with withering sarcasm and wit, that is until they start to bond over Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock. Their weekend with his parents (Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson) and grandmother (Betty White) helps both to reevaluate their priorities. For Margaret, it’s being more emotionally vulnerable and available while Andrew has to reconcile with his demanding father.

Besides the two leads, White gets the most attention as the gabby grandmother. She has her moments, like when she’s poking around Bullock’s chest like it’s an egg hunt. But there’s also a questionable scene in which she’s chanting and hopping about in what we’re led to believe is a Native American ritual. Props for bringing the Tlingit, an indigenous people, to my attention, but when your name is Betty White, spinning around a bonfire while wearing a headdress is not a good look.

Some supporting characters get lost, and the movie never balances the immigration fraud with Andrew’s story in particular. We meet his ex, Gertrude (Malin Åkerman), who normally would work her way into becoming the third wheel, but there is nothing bad to say about her. Worse yet, there’s really nothing to say about her at all. Andrew’s split with Gertrude and rift with his dad all have to do with his reluctance to stay in Alaska. Unfortunately, we never get a satisfying conclusion to this either, even if they do find peace.

Released: 2009
Prod: Todd Lieberman, David Hoberman, Kristin Burr
Dir: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Peter Chiarelli
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Betty White, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Denis O’Hare, Oscar Nuñez, Malin Åkerman, Aasif Mandvi
Time: 108 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2018

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Two Weeks Notice (2002)

two weeks notice

Two Weeks Notice is a romantic comedy that has neither romance nor comedy. It does boast an enviable pairing in Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, but that’s a match that works only in theory. The actors share little chemistry and are saddled with a script so inert that you’ll be wanting to hand in a two minute notice. Bullock stars as Lucy, a progressive, lawyer, and Harvard graduate who tries to stave off gentrification by riding wrecking balls (whilst fully clothed). When she learns that a beloved community center is slated for redevelopment, she confronts the devil himself, real estate mogul George Wade (Grant). Rather than getting the brush off, she is offered a job as lead council and accepts, on the condition that he will save the center and that she will get company funds to develop her own community projects.

If you believe someone who regularly handcuffs herself to demolition sites would willingly crawl into the belly of the corporate beast, then you’re halfway to enjoying this movie. Before long, Lucy finds herself morphing into George’s personal assistant. She gets called out of a wedding because he can’t figure out what clothes to wear, just one sign of his growing dependence on her, and his general immaturity. When she decides to quit, she discovers that she is unemployable; he wants her to stay on, and other firms don’t want to cross him. It’s an absurd premise to overcome, and frankly, the movie doesn’t.

That Lucy and George appear to be a well matched comedic odd couple should help. She is straight-laced and laser-focused while he hires beautiful lawyers who barely passed the bar just so he can bed them. He’s also not particularly good at his job, bumbling Hugh Grant that he is, and often defers to his older brother (David Haig). When that doesn’t work, he leans on his black best friend who speaks in metaphors comparing women to chess. Neither actor seems to enjoy their part. The characters don’t stand out as individuals and thereby lack the strength to play off one another. Grant’s flirtatious glances aren’t enough to catch fire, and the film tries to make up by manufacturing romance elsewhere. A few scenes show the couple – how shall we put this – working through adversity but are really no more than juvenile toilet humor.

When the two do reach some point of reconciliation, it’s not emotionally rewarding. Lucy lost me when she started working for George, and I fell completely off the wagon when she got jealous while training her flirtatious replacement (Alicia Witt). As for George, I was never invested enough to believe or care whether he would grow a conscience. Interestingly, the character who most caught my attention was Lucy’s mother (Dana Ivey), herself a formidable legal mind and one of the best in the country if her daughter is to be believed. There’s a tiger mother story underpinning this relationship, and it’s one that Bullock seems more committed to playing and one that I’d be more committed to watching.

Released: 2002
Prod: Sandra Bullock
Dir: Marc Lawrence
Writer: Marc Lawrence
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, Alicia Witt, Dana Ivey, Robert Klein, David Haig, Francie Swift, Heather Burns, Veanne Cox
Time: 101 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016

All About Steve

all about steve

I don’t know that I would vote All About Steve the worst movie of 2009, but it rightly deserves some Razzie love for an ill-conceived story about an awkward woman who’s not doing a great job of fitting into society. Those who manage to watch until the end will be awarded with some tender moments when the film seems to find its moral core, but damn, it’s a long, uncomfortable ride there.

Sandra Bullock plays Mary Horowitz, a crossword puzzle writer for the local paper and the type of person who would assert that “crosswording is the most fun a person can have without passing out.” As it is, she also lives with her parents, is single, and wears her cherry red latex boots everywhere. After some teasing from a group of middle schoolers, she decides to go ahead with a blind date arranged by her parents. He turns out to be Steve (Bradley Cooper), a cameraman for a news network, and man, is he gorgeous.

Mary is immediately smitten, but her infatuation soon morphs into something bordering on obsession. First, she writes a puzzle all about Steve, which gets her fired, and then she takes this as a sign that she should pursue him across the country. Steve’s colleague and on-air reporter, Hartman (Thomas Haden Church), essentially invites her along, hoping that her encyclopedic knowledge will give him the edge he needs to be bumped up to the anchor desk.

There are plenty of Marys to be found in movies and television, and it isn’t her lack of social grace that makes the film hard to watch. She’s an oddball, she knows it, and she tries in her own way to fit in, even if that means standing with her back pressed firmly against the outer edges of society. Instead, it’s the way everyone else treats her that makes you question the movie’s intent.

As a comedy, All About Steve is interested in laughs foremost, and those come solely at the expense of Mary. But what is supposed to be funny comes across as cruel, whether it’s Hartman giving her false hopes that Steve is mad about her or that she is bullied off a bus and left to her own devices. There’s a nagging feeling that everyone’s eyeing each other, trying to make a getaway, but not before needling her just because she’s an easy target. It isn’t until well into the movie that Angus (Ken Jeong), Steve and Hartman’s producer, tries to put a stop to the snickering. He reprimands them like a pair of ill-mannered school children, declaring that Mary is “just a really smart girl with weird boots.”

The actors do their best to extract some compassion out of the script. Cooper avoids playing Steve as a jerk and is more invested in the character as a decent guy who finds himself in a situation he doesn’t know how to get out of. Sometimes this causes him to act in less than admirable ways. As Mary, Bullock puts on her bubbly personality and ends up making her character even more pathetic, like the woman who’s laughing at her own jokes to the sound of crickets. But there’s also a hopefulness to her that gives the film a lift. Maybe she just hasn’t found the right lunch table yet.

Released: 2009
Prod: Sandra Bullock, Mary McLaglen
Dir: Phil Traill
Writer: Kim Barker
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church, Ken Jeong, DJ Qualls, Katy Mixon, Keith David, Holmes Osborne, M.C. Gainey, Howard Hesseman, Beth Grant, Jason Jones
Time: 99 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2015