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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

June 17, 2009 at 3:49 PM

Sandra Bullock: Still waiting for The One

You know how there are some actors that just seem to make a career out of being in the wrong movie? Sandra Bullock has always been that actor for me. I’ve always found her exceptionally charming on screen; she’s a very natural actor with a rare gift for physical comedy and snappy timing. (And the fact that she looks a lot like my cousin Maureen doesn’t hurt.) And yet, she just never seems to find just the right script. She doesn’t choose terrible movies, and I like the way she mixes drama (“Crash”), thrillers (“Premonition”) and comedy (“The Proposal,” opening this week) so as not to get pigeonholed, but she’s always the best thing about a movie that just isn’t as good as it should be. You watch her thinking, oh, Sandra. If only.
Just once, she did find the right role and the right script, and nobody saw it. It was “Infamous,” the recent Truman Capote biopic. Or rather, I should say, the second recent Truman Capote biopic; the first one, “Capote,” was the one with all the attention and the Oscar nominations. “Infamous,” also very good, got ignored because audiences had just seen a Capote story, and Bullock’s remarkable work as she disappeared into the role of Southern writer Harper Lee — soft-voiced, meticulously accented, warm and vivid — was ignored too. Perhaps another “Infamous” is coming her way; I hope so.
In the meantime, we have Bullock doing the rom-com thing in “The Proposal,” and she’s very good in it (though not entirely convincing as a “Devil Wears Prada”-style boss). But you have to keep searching the movie, and her performance, for those little moments that tell you that she’s capable of much more. Consider this scene (photo below), where she’s kneeling on a sidewalk after proposing marriage to Ryan Reynolds, who plays her assistant. He accepts and walks away, leaving her on her knees in a tight pencil skirt and stilettos. The way Bullock plays this tiny, seconds-long, throwaway moment — the fleeting look of panic, the way she resolutely rolls back onto those trembly heels, hoping against hope that she won’t tip herself over — shows the attention to detail of an ever-thinking actor. (There’s a teeny moment in the otherwise dismissable “Two Weeks Notice,” involving a near-collision with a potted plant, that’s a similar physical-comedy gem.) I’m getting tired of waiting for a great Sandra Bullock movie, but these moments make the wait worthwhile.

(Photo credit: Kerry Hayes, SMPSP; copyright 2009 Touchstone Pictures)

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