Sandra Bullock has so perfected her public image as an every-woman struggling to deal with unexpected, shocking events that it can be easy to forget she is one of the most acclaimed and popular actresses on the planet. Bullock plays slightly awkward and socially impaired so well that you forget she has an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, multiple years as the highest-paid actress in the world, and the highest-grossing sports movie in history under her belt. While You Were Sleeping? Socially awkward dealing with anunexpected romance. Speed? An everywoman dealing with a bus that cannot slow down? Gravity? An ordinary astronaut dealing with the extraordinary force of gravity. While that last one might not be the best example, it still stands that audiences love seeing Sandra Bullock as an ordinary person swept up in unusual circumstances. It stands to reason that is the plot of her latest movie, The Lost City, is currently the most popular movie streaming on Paramount+.
The Lost City stars Sandra Bullock as Loretta Sage, a romance novelist of waning popularity who has become something of a recluse after the death of her archaeologist husband. She is firmly pushed into a book tour with her Fabio-esque cover model Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum), only to be abducted by an eccentric British billionaire played by Daniel Radcliffe who believes the plot of her latest book, which involves a mysterious priceless treasure on a remote island, is actually based in real research. Alan (who is not-very-secretly in love with Sandra Bullock) hires a mysterious former Navy SEAL to find his partner in Harlequin-style literature, and the slightly goofy, theoretically dangerous adventures are afoot.
The movie, which was directed by the Nee brothers who also co-wrote the screenplay with Dana Fox and Oren Uziel, is admirably efficient. Within fifteen minutes of the film opening, we have already seen Sandra Bullock in an Indiana Jones-style fantasy sequence that doubles as a visualization of her writing process. We get a series of phone calls from her publicist (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) that turn a potential exposition dump into a montage of Sandra Bullock’s lack of enthusiasm for her work. Channing Tatum’s press conference entry set to “The Final Countdown” in a long blonde wig establishes him as a well-meaning buffoon. By the time Daniel Radcliffe’s nattily dressed media mogul Abigail Fairfax is explaining that Abigail is a gender-neutral name like Leslie, pretty much all characterization needed for the entirety of the film is set up.
Perhaps more than any other actor alive, Sandra Bullock threads the romantic comedy needle with ease. While the movie repeatedly points out how empty the novelist’s life is (with Daniel Radcliffe pointing out that her lack of stereotypical sad-lady cats is some even sadder), it does not try to pretend that Bullock does not have an inherent glamour and beauty. Her publicist outfits her in a ridiculous sequined jumpsuit that becomes a running gag for its inappropriateness as to jungle-wear, but no one is suggesting that she can’t pull it off. It is a delicate act to pull off, but if anyone can do it, Sandra Bullock can.
The Lost City is also filled with a constant quippery that could turn a dumber movie into pure snark. But Daniel Radcliffe being embarrassed by his henchmen kidnapping Sandra Bullock because he specifically told them to not make it creepy, or Brad Pitt (in a much-publicized surprise cameo) casually saying he’s so handsome because his father was a weatherman hits just the right tone of odd self-awareness.
The Lost City was released in March and immediately became a hit, no doubt buoyed in part by audience desire for fun, and easy escapism after several years of theater shutdowns. It is currently in the top ten highest-grossing movies of 2022, not an easy task for a non-franchise movie in the dominant world of the MCU and DCEU. It was also positively received by critics, currently holding a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. While many pointed out the very strong similarities to the 1984 Kathleen Turner-Michael Douglas film Romancing the Stone, it is difficult to be too critical of a movie so light as The Lost City. And besides, Sandra Bullock just makes it so convincing.