After helming the incendiary 'Fatal Attraction' and the phantasmagoric 'Jacob's Ladder', Adrian Lyne went on to direct a "high concept" romance, which in Hollywood-speak means a simple plot that's easily summarized by its title. 'Indecent Proposal' was just that. A handsome billionaire offers a cool million to a down-on-their-luck couple for a one-night stand. On paper, it sounds intriguing and provocative, with plenty of room for some steamy encounters. With Hollywood-hottie at the time, Demi Moore, in the lead role and the director of '9 ½ Weeks' behind the camera, the idea was surefire box office gold. Unfortunately, the end result is a mildly sensual melodrama that did little with its interesting plot, but coasts on a moderately entertaining pace and a strong performance from Moore.
High school sweethearts Diana (Demi Moore) and David (Woody Harrelson) have been in love since the day they met and supported one another with complete devotion. When the opportunity arrives to buy an ocean-side property where David can design his dream house, they jump on it while tightening their wallets. Then a recession hits, threatening their finances along with their dreams. On a whim, they travel to Las Vegas and parlay the remainder of their money, which, as it turns out, was not such a bright idea. But luck suddenly arrives in the guise of billionaire John Gage (Robert Redford), who proposes financial freedom in exchange for one night with Diana. Soon, the couple discovers that gambling with love is a high stakes morality game as they struggle to preserve their marriage.
Based on the novel of the same name by Jack Engelhard, the idea is not entirely new, bearing some semblance to the concept of 'Pretty Woman' and 'Honeymoon in Vegas', where the exchange of money for sexual pleasure leads to rediscovering true love. But at the time of its release, the flick sparked quite a controversy, with Oprah Winfrey even jumping on the band wagon, only to discover that half of her audience members would agree to the proposal. That is, as long as the billionaire is Robert Redford. In all honesty, part of the reason the movie became such a box office hit was due to Redford in the role of the filthy-rich bachelor. I mean, come on. It's Robert Redford for crying out loud. He could spit chewing tobacco on the ground while standing in a steaming dung heap, and women would still fawn over him for being a gritty cowboy. Had the offer come from the likes of Ted Turner or Michael Eisner rather than an older and wealthier version of John-John, the movie would've been a huge gamble indeed.
The other reason for the movie's success is, of course, the proposal itself. Though released in 1993, the plot is very much an 80s-driven fantasy, which for audiences, affirmed the sentiment that money can't buy you everything, least of all love. But when your choice is between the smooth-tongued, free-spirited hunter of 'Out of Africa' and the knuckleheaded dolt on 'Cheers', the two hours spent pondering that one is very well worth the admission price. Well, maybe. On the one side, you have the charming, worldly, and mansion/yacht-owning Gage who seems to keep piano players at the ready. On the other is a sensitive architect with his heart on his sleeve who thinks that a silo in the center of his dream house is modern and creative. Gee, wonder why most of Oprah's fans would jump on the opportunity . . . or should I say, jump on The Sundance Kid.
Beyond that head-scratcher, though, the narrative lacks a steady, polished flow, with the passage of time feeling awkwardly fast and hurried. Cutting quickly from one dramatic situation to the next, the plot is certainly manipulative and focused on reaching that inevitable end that functions much like a cologne or jewelry commercial. The only thing keeping 'Indecent Proposal' just above bankruptcy is Lyne's direction, which is a more compassionate approach to themes of love and marital infidelity compared to his other work. There's a sincere and heartfelt air of romance embracing the movie and the final conversation between Redford and Moore is actually quite nice and sentimental. As for Demi, this is possibly the strongest performance of her career, unless you think 'Striptease' or 'Passion of Mind' are worthier of mention.
While there are better romance movies to choose from, 'Indecent Proposal' doesn't try to hide its conventions for testing the limits of love or its predictable conclusion. And it may not be all that good, but it's still an amusing watch and an easy diversion for those nights when you want to snuggle with your significant other, forget about the real world, and feel reassured about why you fall in love at all.
Although exhibiting better resolution and sharpness that its DVD counterpart, this 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC transfer of 'Indecent Proposal' arrives with some deficiencies and a much softer appearance than expected. The overall picture fluctuates between scenes of significant improvement and a below average hi-def presentation.
The grain structure is very much a part of the film's look, but it's distractingly inconsistent - even in the same scenes. One minute it's unobtrusive and film-like, and the next it's heavy enough to ruin sharpness and clarity. Contrast is about average, but whites look rather punchy. Black levels are fairly deep, yet the image is flat and without depth. Details tend to be lost in the shadows, and only a few scenes contain adequate delineation. Primaries receive a nice boost, looking brighter and more vivid than before. While flesh tones appear warm, maybe even a little reddish, facial details and texture are lacking a bit. On the whole, viewers will be hard pressed to find a significant improvement over upconverting the DVD.
Paramount Home Entertainment provides 'Indecent Proposal' with a lossless Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that doesn't fare much better than the video. Coming across as a strictly stereo presentation, the higher resolution audio lacks many of the qualities we've come to expect, but likely an accurate representation of the original sound design than a weakness in the encode.
For what it's worth, the mix is well-balanced in the fronts with nice separation between the channels and conveying many ambient effects with amusing transparency. The soundstage offers a subtle dynamic range, handling John Barry's emotional score with ease and feeling more expansive and spacious than its lossy equivalent. Being a film driven by the conversations and interactions of its characters, the audio presentation delivers pleasant dialogue reproduction, as vocals are clear and distinct. Rear activity is practically non-existent, with only a few scenes which lightly expand the soundfield into the background, and a low-bass response that never makes much of a presence.
For some reason, Paramount saw fit to only include one lonely feature in this Blu-ray edition of 'Indecent Proposal'. Would it have hurt to at least add a short making-of doc or a trailer to better improve the overall package?
'Indecent Proposal' may never be the sweeping love drama it aspires to be, but Lyne's direction at least keeps it entertaining and makes it an easy one to watch. The Blu-ray arrives with an average A/V presentation and a disappointing package of supplements. Still, it's worth checking out for fans of the movie.
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