Paramount // 1993 // 116 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Daniel MacDonald (Retired) // June 9th, 2009
"Suppose I were to offer you one million dollars...for one night with your wife."
A successful high-profile film upon its 1993 release, Indecent Proposal made the phrase above part of the national lexicon and continued director Adrian Lyne's string of hits, coming on the heels of Jacob's Ladder and the wildly popular thriller Fatal Attraction. Lyne's best work comes out when he combines his gift for the erotic with a moral dilemma, something he pulls off with aplomb here.
Indecent Proposal's dilemma, as many do, involves money and what otherwise upstanding citizens will do when offered the right amount. In this case, struggling architect David Murphy (Woody Harrelson, Natural Born Killers), and his beautiful wife Diana (Demi Moore, Mr. Brooks) venture to Vegas in an effort to earn enough money to save their dream property from foreclosure by the bank. Diana catches the eye of industrialist billionaire John Gage (Robert Redford, Spy Game), and the couple ends up Gage's guests at a black tie party in his suite. After the other guests have left, Gage, Diana, and David enter into an intellectual exercise determining the limits of what can or cannot be bought, and Gage makes the titular offer of questionable decency. The rest of the film tracks the fallout from the Murphys' decision.
Indecent Proposal remains a pleasing bit of pulpy entertainment. Redford is scarily capable of being simultaneously a total sleazeball and a charming gentleman, without ever betraying the essence of his character. His John Gage is unrelenting in his pursuit of Diana, yet remains somewhat sensitive to the feelings of her spurned husband, maintaining a gentleman's code of etiquette that never permits you to hate him. Harrelson walks a fine line as the conflicted husband, directing the guilt he feels over his indecisiveness into unearned anger at Diana yet remaining empathetic -- and Moore has perhaps the hardest job, portraying Diana as unquestionably devoted to her husband, yet making us wonder how she could also not be attracted to John Gage, with his confidence, limitless bank account, and Robert Redford's good looks, and therefore be at least a little interested in taking him up on his offer. In the audio commentary, Lyne notes that the scene in which Diana and David debate the pros and cons is structured so that twenty audience members would come up with twenty different interpretations.
The movie works because the characters' stakes are well established before the fit starts hitting the shan. We spend plenty of time with David and Diana, enough to understand that they are genuinely, madly in love with each other, and that money is simply a means to an end for them -- they're far from greedy or materialistic. It's hard to judge them for their choices, as they're consistently made for the right reasons. What an authentic depiction of marriage Lyne and writer Amy Holden Jones (Mystic Pizza) have committed to the screen.
There's plenty to criticize in Indecent Proposal as well: the opening scenes are marred by some truly atrocious voiceover, and the couple's catchphrase of, "Did I ever tell you I love you?" gets mighty old mighty fast. The melodrama goes over the top on a few occasions, and the ending undercuts the Diana's strength, making her seem less independent than she has seemed throughout the rest of the picture. Still, it's a well-crafted tale that does what it sets out to: namely provide a solid two hours of entertainment.
On Blu-ray, Indecent Proposal's strong visuals are well represented, and the image is remarkably film-like. Grain is fairly heavy at times, especially in low-light interior shots, but never intrusively so; if DNR was applied, it was done sparingly. Some specks of debris and minor print damage are present, especially early on. Edge enhancement is minor, and colors are vibrant when they're intended to be (although the movie has a flat look overall). Fine details like stitching in clothing and upholstery textures are present, and the bitrate hovers in the low 30s. The original Dolby surround audio mix has been converted to 5.1, encoded in Dolby TrueHD, and while largely front-heavy (as one would expect), there are some very nice surround effects. One noteworthy instance is when David and Diana are playing roulette -- the sound of the ball circling the wheel revolves around the room, adding to the disorienting visuals and overall tension of the scene.
The sole special feature is a scene-specific audio commentary by director Adrian Lyne. While he lapses into silence on more than a few occasions, there is plenty of interesting material to be found here, and Lyne's willingness to openly question the wisdom of some of his decisions is refreshingly unusual. It's worth a listen for the tidbits of trivia, like the six-foot roulette wheel that the production constructed to achieve close-up shots that today would've probably been accomplished by computer.
I quite enjoyed Indecent Proposal, and Blu-ray offers a satisfying
presentation. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Rated R