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Indecent Proposal

From Blade Runner to Terminator 2, many a film has arguably been, if not ruined, certainly compromised by bad (or cheesy or unnecessary) voice-overs. Indecent Proposal (1993) is no exception. Yes, it has other faults besides Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson's shlocky narration — say, the sensationalized plot, for one — but few are as persistently irritating. And their comments in the film's opening scenes go so far as to effectively kill any pretense of suspense the movie has after the crucial "will they or won't they" decision that comes about 40 minutes in. Nevertheless, Indecent Proposal became a pop-culture touchstone, prompting countless dinner party conversations about the conundrum Moore and Harrelson's married characters, Diana and David Murphy, face: Will they, as a couple, agree to let Diana spend one night with billionaire John Gage (Robert Redford) in exchange for $1 million — money they desperately need to keep their house and their land? Perhaps the question would have been harder to answer had Gage looked more like a real-life billionaire (Bill Gates? Rupert Murdoch?) instead of the chiseled Sundance founder, but no matter — the consequences of the decision still wreak havoc on Diana and David's lives. Screenwriter Amy Holden Jones (working from the novel by Jack Engelhard) does throw a few curveballs into the story, but thanks to the way the film opens, it's not hard to guess how it ends. Add that to the fact that the stakes simply aren't high enough — David and Diana are young, strong, appealing people who would be more than able to start over if they lost everything — and the movie loses whatever urgency it might have had. Even as a meditation on morality and character, it's not that compelling; anyone with a brain can see there are rocks ahead for the double D's when they give into Gage's proposition. One breath of fresh air is the always-enjoyable Oliver Platt as David's friend/lawyer Jeremy; he brings some much-needed levity to the generally somber film. But even his quips can't save Indecent Proposal from taking itself too seriously, which, in the end, is a worse transgression than those awful voice-overs. Paramount's DVD offers a strong anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is steady and clear (other options include English 2.0 Surround, French stereo, and English subtitles). Someone managed to round up director Adrian Lyne (Fatal Attraction, 9 1/2 Weeks) to record a new commentary track (the disc's only extra); he offers some behind-the-scenes stories, as well as some random observations (he likes working dogs into his films, and he likes to "cheerlead" his actors in love scenes...). Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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