The XX Factor

“The Proposal”: Romcom Meets Bad Slapstick

Sandra Bullock is right that The Proposal , out today, is not about cougars . The movie ignores the age gap between leading lady Bullock, almost 45, and leading man Ryan Reynolds, 32. Which is good, according to Bullock: “The word cougar makes me want to throw up in my mouth,” she told USA Today .

But Bullock is wrong when she tries to duck the romcom label. “It’s a comedy that has romance in it,” she insists. ‘When you say romantic comedy, everyone cringes.” Sorry, but the plot is as romcom as it gets: cold, mean woman threatened with deportation makes hard-working underling who hates her marry her so she can get a green card. Need I even say “spoiler alert” to reveal that through all the bickering and feigned romance come brief moments of sincerity, a forced but ultimately pleasurable kiss, and then, bam, they’re in love?

Cringing, in fact, was my default expression throughout the 107 minutes of The Proposal . I cringed when Bullock’s character, a high-powered, successful book editor, doesn’t know what YouTube is. I cringed during her excessively long nude scene (again, she seems inexplicably moronic, having failed to bring a towel with her to the shower, and then proving incapable of walking to the linen closet to get one). And I did a full-body cringe when Bullock stumbles upon the very white Betty White, who plays Reynolds’ grandma, in the woods, wearing a sort of headdress while chanting and dancing to invoke tribal spirits.

The only part of the movie that didn’t make me cringe was the romance, and Bullock has Reynolds to thank for that. He played the love scenes with more John Cusack than Moe Howard-as is fitting for a romcom.