At some point, fatigue sets in.
Ever since we figured out that we could all do more if we each did less, most of us have been delegated (or is it relegated?) to perform specialized tasks over and over again—most of us, in other words, have jobs. We spend nearly all our waking hours preparing for, plodding through and recovering from our jobs. And at some point, some indeterminate but inevitable point, fatigue sets in.
For a teacher, it could hit near the end of the term, while regurgitating arcane scientific trivia to a roomful of children. For a nurse, it could be during the graveyard shift, pacing sterile and empty hallways. For a film critic, it is now, halfway through the summer season, sitting through ordinary yet over-budgeted orchestrations like The Proposal.
Ten weeks ago, the mislabeled romantic comedy New in Town featured a successful but frigid East Coast female executive in her forties (Renee Zellweger) who was displaced to a frigid but charming rural outpost (Minnesota), where she gradually warmed to the handy, handsome local (Harry Connick, Jr).
The Proposal, by contrast, is the story of a successful but frigid East Coast female executive in her forties (Sandra Bullock) who is displaced to a frigid but charming rural outpost (Alaska), where she gradually warms to the handy, handsome local (Ryan Reynolds).
Bullock plays Margaret Tate, whose specialized task is making executive decisions in tight clothes at a major New York publishing company. Reynolds is her assistant, Andrew Baxter—his job is to fetch cinnamon soy lattes for Margaret. In danger of being deported to her native Canada, Margaret proposes a quickie marriage to Andrew, followed by a quickie divorce. A great plan, except (Spoiler alert!) they fall in love instead.
If nothing else, The Proposal is entertainment conducive to cuddling. Of course, so is the programming on Music 99 FM, which is free. The Proposal is also two hours of situational hijinks and light laughs, but so are four syndicated episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, which is funnier and, with some creative channel-surfing, also free (since you’re already paying for cable). You don’t like your job, so don’t spend the money you made there on this movie.
The reason so many bad films get made is that everyone involved—the director (Anne Fletcher), the stars, the movie executives—can bank on our fatigue. They know that, as soon as we punch out, we tune out. We don’t really care if the movie is any good or not—at least it’s not work.
At the risk of inducing a midlife crisis, consider this question. Why are we so desperate for distractions like The Proposal? Are we so mortified about the consequences of quiet contemplation that we must fill all our available leisure time with liquor and libido, tickets and television? So what if our jobs force us to compromise childhood dreams—we can’t all be astronaut rock stars. Skip The Proposal, and live with it.