(movie review originally written in 2002)
"Indecent Proposal" is a movie that was destined to generate discussion around the watercooler the weekend after and chat years later. It has even been parodied, most amusingly in the Farrelly Brothers' "Kingpin", which also starred Woody Harrelson. The main idea of the plot could have been entirely mishandled, resulting in a movie that seemed totally sleazy and uninteresting. Here, the offer still remains sleazy, but we're presented with good performances and a movie that wraps its less-than-classy main plot piece with a rather light, elegant look and tone.
The movie opens smartly, with a moving sequence that focuses on David and Diana Murphy (Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore), a young couple who have been together since high school and have discussed their desire to stick together forever. The two actors generate a surprising amount of chemistry and when things go seriously wrong, I did feel genuinely sorry for them. The two want to build his dream house on the ocean, but the real estate market goes South and it looks as if they're going to lose their house. They borrow $5,000 from David's father and they drive to Las Vegas in an attempt to quickly try and take their $5,000 to the $50,000 they need to keep both the house they're building and the house they're currently living in.
Although the two are quickly up $25,000, it's a matter of not knowing when to quit that does them in. While this could have generated dislike for the characters at trying to push their luck too far, Harrelson and Moore are genuinely and convincingly crushed at their loss. Meanwhile, Diana has been noticed by John Gage (Robert Redford), a billionaire who has taken a real liking to her. This is one of the few elements of the movie that doesn't quite work as well as it should - while Harrelson and Moore have fine chemistry, it's not quite as easily apparent what Redford's billionaire sees in her.
Anyways, soon enough the famed offer that made the movie so famed comes up. Gage's offer - he gets to spend one night with Diana for a cost - one million dollars. The couple think about it overnight - then agree to the proposal. We don't see the actual night itself, but we do see the aftermath. The couple didn't think that one night would break them up, but they find that it's started to slowly tear them apart.
Obviously, the message of the film is that money can not buy love, happiness or people. The film doesn't say what went on is right, but it's all about allowing the viewer to ponder how they would handle the situation. The film occasionally seems allergic to logic, but there's something about the serious - but not ultra-serious - way that the actors play it that allows the ridiculous to be, in my opinion, still at least mildly involving. The tone of the film is at once high-gloss and somewhat old-fashioned, thanks to the major locations, soft-focus cinematography from Howard Atherton (who did the very different Michael Bay film "Bad Boys" right after) and score from John Barry.
The few little touches of dark humor in the screenplay are offered by Oliver Platt, who plays the couple's lawyer. "Just think of it as an episode of the 'Dating Game' gone awry," he says to Harrelson's character. The three main performances are also very good - Harrelson and Moore are convincingly a couple and Redford plays the part perfectly. I've never really thought that much of Moore's acting abilities (although I still think "GI Jane" is underrated), but she's quite good here and looks beautiful.
Overall, "Indecent Proposal" is one of those films I don't consider outstanding; the pace is sometimes slow, the narration irritating, the characters occasionally do foolish things and parts of the second half are not always well-handled. Somehow, it still works well enough that I consider it an enjoyable picture - the performances that the three leads offer are really the main reasons why the film remains engaging.
VIDEO: Paramount presents the film in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (1080p/AVC) and the results are very, very good - once again, the studio does a very nice job handling a catalog title. Although Howard Atherton's rather soft-focus cinematography does give the film a gauzy, slight hazy look at times, the picture still shows fine detail and appears noticeably crisper on this Blu-Ray edition.
Some mild-to-moderate amounts of grain are seen at times throughout the movie, but this appears to be an intentional element of the cinematography. No edge enhancement or pixelation was spotted and - aside from a couple of light specks - the print appeared pristine. The bright, neon colors of Vegas appear a bit perkier on this presentation, looking rich and well-saturated. While some of the visuals (such as the fashions) may appear (quite) dated, the film does look fresher than before on this new Blu-Ray.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. This is not a particularly active soundtrack, although it doesn't really need to be, either. The only times that the surrounds are noticably used are the Vegas sequences, where the background sounds of the casino are lightly offered by the rear speakers. Otherwise, Barry's score remains in the front speakers, as does what other minor touches are offered. Dialogue remained natural, clear and easily understood throughout.
EXTRAS: Commentary: The only supplement included on this DVD is a commentary from director Adrian Lyne. The director doesn't seem to have watched the film in a few years, but does at least attempt to recall some tidbits of information as scenes go by. While there are some stretches of silence, Lyne at least does provide some general insights into his style of filmmaking when it seems like he doesn't have anything remembered about the scene at hand. A rather spotty commentary, but fans might want to give it a try.
Final Thoughts: "Indecent Proposal" is movie that, in my opinion, works despite some noticeable faults, mainly due to the lead performances. The Blu-Ray edition carries over the commentary from the DVD and offers both improved video quality and slightly better audio quality.
The Film B