DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Indecent Proposal

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Indecent Proposal

Indecent Proposal (1993) dir. Adrian Lyne
Starring: Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson, Robert Redford


"Indecent Proposal" is the third Adrian Lyne film to be get the Blu-Ray treatment from Paramount Pictures. Lyne’s career output has been sparse, but remarkably focused, only making 8 films in 30 years. His elegent visual style and intense and naturalistic performances manage to transcend his often salacious melodramatic material.

“Indecent Proposal” fits in well with “Fatal Attraction”, “9 ½ Weeks” and Unfaithful”, four films unfortunately defined by the dreaded ‘erotic thriller’ genre. Each of these films are better than this restrictive definition, and "Indecent Proposal" is no exception.

Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore play Diana and David Moore, a loving couple who, like their middle class peers,  went to school, got good jobs, and worked hard to advanced their careers. But often, like in this current recession, and to quote Robbie Burns, 'the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry'. When David loses his job, the couple spiral down into debt finding themselves with no money except for the $5000 David reluctantly borrowed from his father. And so their last option is to go to Vegas and roll the dice on their future.

There they ride the ups and downs of luck, finding themselves once again in the hole. Until billionaire John Gage (Robert Redford) catches site of Diana in the casino. Whether its love (or lust) at first sight, Gage goes after Diana, and when she shoots down his advances he resorts to his money to buy a night with her. David finds himself at his version of the crossroads, faced with the ultimate decision and test of his love for his wife. When he goes for the money, he finds himself in the reverse situation as before, a comfortable life but an empty untrustworthy relationship with Diana which is ready to fall.

Lyne's great storytelling abilities are on display here. The opening half is told with a not-unsubtle, predictable path toward the fateful 'deal with the devil' Diana and David make with Gage. Once in Vegas we see the step-by-step, almost real time decisions which lead to the consummation of Gage’s offer. The pacing of the second half is completely different, playing out over many more years. Lyne exercises expert skills in compressing time yet making sense of the new lives David and Diana find themselves in.

From a storytelling point of view it’s a difficult task to make Diana's new relationship with John believable. With smart and real-world performances from Moore and Redford their blossoming relationship emerges slowly and naturally without artificiality.

Robert Redford, as the suave wealthy businessman, is great casting. Redford’s immediately likeable celeb/activist persona is a contradiction to the cutthroat big business attitude of John Gage. So even when Gage is at his most despicable something tells us that he’s not a bad man. In fact, he’s like the devil with a charming congenial exterior, testing and teasing the moral fortitude of Diana and David. But fFor Lyne, Gage is testing us, the audience, forcing ourselves into their shoes to provide our answers to their dilemma.

"Indecent Proposal" is much better than the fleshy love scenes the film unfortunately has become famous for. Enjoy.

“Indecent Proposal” is available on Blu-Ray from Paramount Picture Home Entertainment

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