The trailer for “The Proposal” explains the plot very clearly: Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, who hate each other, must pretend to be engaged in order to prevent her from being deported to Canada. It looks awful. Why would someone make such a formulaic, generic movie? We obtained an audio recording of the pitch meeting that should shed some light on things. Here’s a transcript.
STUDIO EXEC #1: Oh, no need to recite your credentials, Anne! We’re very familiar with your unique, visionary films!
STUDIO EXEC #2: Quite so! What innovative new project have you got for us today?
ANNE FLETCHER: Well, it’s another romantic comedy, but with a twist!
STUDIO EXEC #3: A twist??! My ovaries are tingling already!
ANNE FLETCHER: Thank you, sir. It’s about a no-nonsense workaholic businesswoman —
STUDIO EXEC #1: I assume she lives in New York City and works for a magazine?
ANNE FLETCHER: Close. Book publisher.
STUDIO EXEC #1: Oh! A literary-type dame! Very classy.
ANNE FLETCHER: And she’s from Canada, see, and her visa has just expired, and she’s going to be deported unless she happens to be married to a U.S. citizen — so she tells her bosses she’s engaged to her assistant, who actually hates her, and she hates him too!
STUDIO EXEC #2: And now they have to pretend they’re in love to fool the immigration office!
ANNE FLETCHER: Exactly! It goes even further, though: They have to visit his family and fool THEM, too!
STUDIO EXEC #3: What about her family?
STUDIO EXEC #2: Shush. Do you want the movie to be 2 1/2 hours long? Her family’s dead, I assume.
ANNE FLETCHER: Yes, dead. No sense cramming a whole extra set of characters into the movie.
STUDIO EXEC #1: So they visit his family, and I trust that what ensues can best be described as hilarity?
ANNE FLETCHER: Yes sir. They live out in rural Alaska, you see, and their son’s fake fiancée is a city girl…
STUDIO EXEC #1: A city girl? From Canada? Do they have cities there?
ANNE FLETCHER: I believe so.
STUDIO EXEC #1: (to secretary) Check on that, will you?
ANNE FLETCHER: So she has run-ins with the local wildlife and whatnot, and with the guy’s kooky family.
STUDIO EXEC #2: I’m not sure I’m interested in this project unless the guy has a foul-mouthed grandmother who says comically profane things.
ANNE FLETCHER: Betty White is already on board.
STUDIO EXEC #2: Well, shut my mouth.
STUDIO EXEC #3: And does the couple have to share a bedroom and pretend to share a bed and accidentally see each other naked, and do they get into compromising positions based on the fact that hate each other but are pretending to be in love?
ANNE FLETCHER: You betcha.
STUDIO EXEC #1: All of this is pretty brilliant stuff, Anne, but I believe you promised a twist of some kind?
ANNE FLETCHER: Yes. In the end, you see, with all the pretending to be in love, the two actually fall in love.
STUDIO EXEC #1: OH.
STUDIO EXEC #2: EM.
STUDIO EXEC #3: GEE.
STUDIO EXEC #1: If I’d been drinking coffee just now, I would have spit it out in a comical fashion.
STUDIO EXEC #2: I haven’t heard a twist ending that good since “The Wedding Planner”!
STUDIO EXEC #3: I’m no student of film history, but I feel confident in saying that this is the greatest idea for a film that anyone has ever conceived.
ANNE FLETCHER: Thank you. I think it will be terrific, too.
STUDIO EXEC #1: My only concern is that it’s TOO edgy, TOO unusual.
STUDIO EXEC #2: That’s true. Will audiences go along with such an outrageously unexpected ending?
STUDIO EXEC #3: C’mon, give ‘em credit. Audiences are savvy nowadays. If we tell a story with two broadly drawn, stereotypical main characters who only say and do generic things, then the audience will be more than happy to join us on whatever middle-of-the-road journey we take them on.
STUDIO EXEC #1: Well said. So Anne, who do you envision starring in this film?
ANNE FLETCHER: For the lead, I’m thinking Sandra Bullock. She’s America’s sweetheart, you know.
STUDIO EXEC #1: Yes! Of course! She was my first thought, too. But can we get her? Is she busy? Would she be willing to stretch herself by making a romantic comedy?
ANNE FLETCHER: She has tentatively said yes already.
STUDIO EXEC #4: Great. And is this a time-travel comedy? Because she was America’s sweetheart in 1995, not 2009.
STUDIO EXEC #1: Who are you? Get out of here!
(STUDIO EXEC #4 leaves.)
STUDIO EXEC #1: Sorry about that. So what about the guy? Someone around Sandra Bullock’s age? Maybe Ed Asner? Tommy Lee Jones?
ANNE FLETCHER: Well, I was thinking younger. Get some kids into the theaters.
STUDIO EXEC #1: How about that guy everyone hates who’s kind of a d-bag but he’s really funny and smirks a lot?
STUDIO EXEC #2: Dane Cook?
STUDIO EXEC #1: Yes! What about him?
ANNE FLETCHER: I don’t think he’s available. He’s on his “Random Catchphrase Coasting on Previous Success” Tour.
STUDIO EXEC #1: What about the guy who looks just like him but is actually an actor?
STUDIO EXEC #3: Ryan Reynolds?
STUDIO EXEC #1: Yes.
ANNE FLETCHER: Fine with me. Look, what do I care? Can I just have my money now?
STUDIO EXEC #1: Yes, yes, of course. One last thing. Men tend to avoid movies like this at all costs. So we need to be sure the trailer has a couple of boner jokes in it, to trick guys into thinking it’s not just a chick flick and they might enjoy it, too, even though they won’t.
ANNE FLETCHER: Not a problem.
STUDIO EXEC #3: There go my ovaries again!