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Indecent Proposal

April 30, 2013

Indecent Proposal (1993)
Director: Adrian Lyne
Actors: Demi Moore, Woody Harrelson, Robert Redford

Indecent Proposal

Synopsis: David and Diana Murphy (Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore) are a young married couple who hit money troubles during the recession of the early 90s. With their plans for a dream home seemingly scuppered, they head to Vegas looking to gamble their way back into some money. Even that tactic fails, but when Diana catches the eye of billionaire, John Gage (Robert Redford), and Gage offers the couple $1m to sleep with Diana, their troubles appear solved….

Review: There’s clearly a thought-provoking – if not, sensational – plot hook at the heart of Indecent Proposal, but it would need far more studied treatment than director Adrian Lyne accords it here, to tease its fascinating dialectic out.

Indecent Proposal‘s seeming certainty over the profundity of its conceit winds up becoming its fatal flaw. Quite simply, it doesn’t present that much of a dilemma: a poor couple having gambled away all their money foolishly at Vegas, and then getting propositioned by a respectable man to sleep with the wife for $1m…I’m not saying there’s no sacrifice inherent in that premise, and it would obviously require some soul-searching, but in the context of the couple’s huge financial crisis, this would be like winning the lottery.

It’s also the moment where the inorganic three-act mechanics of the rote screenplay kick in. To this point, the Murphys have seemed like an eminently normal couple who could cope maturely with the ethical dilemmas associated with Gage’s offer. But to induce “conflict”, we suddenly have the husband, David, chase in ridiculously hammy fashion Gage’s chopper which whisks his wife away, and he totally inappropriately starts luridly accusing his wife of preferring sex with Gage. Unsurprisingly, this then throws Diana into the arms of Gage, before (huge spoiler alert) David’s late regret and about-turn inspires Diana to go back to him. Clearly, the moral of the story is to exact caution when a pot of gold appears on the horizon, but it needed far more sophisticated exploration than this to draw out the richness of that lesson.

A further side issue is that the film’s visual storytelling seems awfully dated. For a movie technically concerned with matters of the “head”, it’s awfully keen to gratuitously ogle on Demi Moore’s breasts whenever it can, and it’s clearly within the lineage of Adrian Lyne’s more ‘erotic’ mainstream thrillers, 9 1/2 Weeks and Fatal Attraction. (April 2013)

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