Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Proposal

Today I got my car back from Marty's. It's nice to be on my own wheels again! The last several days have been relatively challenging. It takes an extra hour (each way) to get to and from work by bus and train. When I had a commitment at 6:45 after a shift ending at 5:00, I had to take a taxi, to the tune of $20. So, basically, it took me more time and money to get less done. It is good to have a car!

I celebrated by taking it, and myself, to a movie. We, or rather I, saw The Proposal, a romantic comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. It's amazing what will work as a romantic comedy these days. A boss blackmailing her assistant into marrying her so she doesn't get deported for visa reasons? Wow. If the gender roles were switched, it would be a political drama. But since Sandra plays the conveniently babe-a-licious boss, and Ryan plays the more-than-necessarily studly secretary, it works out in the end -- especially with the help of the latter's quirky family, played by Craig T. Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, and Betty White.

It's more or less a family-friendly film. Some families might want to steer clear of it because of a few touches of adult humor, including a gross-out striptease and a farcical nude collision between the two main characters. Then there's my handy "occult content advisory." Granny is part Native Alaskan, and her spirituality becomes ridiculously explicit. But my biggest concern is still the political implications -- and yes, I am at least partly talking about sexual politics.

It isn't just the obvious problem (that these two conspire to commit immigration fraud, which the film frankly informs us is a serious crime). There is also the not-so-obvious problem that Bullock's character, as Reynolds' boss, uses her ability to help or hinder his career to get him to marry her. How we can even gradually, grudgingly begin to sympathize with them, or cheer their romance on, is a mystery. We should be appalled by the main characters' ethics. But instead, we are won over by their charm and comic timing.

You could argue, perhaps, that every movie character we fall in love with is a flawed. There is always something clever, something artistic, something magical about a movie that makes us love them warts and all. But I wonder if there's a line that shouldn't be crossed. I wonder if there's ever a point where the cleverness becomes diabolical, the artistry artful, the magic black and evil. I wonder whether some warts are so malignant that a film should strive to make the character human, but go no further. Bottom line: Would we laugh if the guy was on top?

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