"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 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 "Indecent Proposal" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation of the 9-year-old picture is not flawless, but it's quite a good one, nonetheless. Howard Atherton's cinematography is soft focus, but not irritatingly so - the picture remains crisp and smooth throughout.
The print used remained cleaner throughout than I'd expected. Aside from a few little specks infrequently seen, the picture remained free of such faults. Very slight edge enhancement was seen once or twice, but no pixelation or other problems were spotted. This is a film with a somewhat varying color palette; the Vegas scenes occasionally offer bright and vivid colors that looked well-rendered here, but other sequences have a more subdued look, which still looked accurately presented. This is very fine work from Paramount.
SOUND: "Indecent Proposal" is presented by Paramount in Dolby Digital 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. 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.
MENUS: The animated menus are simple, but elegant, using clips and score.
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 noticable faults, mainly due to the lead performances. Paramount's DVD only provides minimal supplements, but the audio/video quality remains good. Recommended for fans.
The Film ***