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Refuse this high-gloss Proposal at any cost

Indecent Proposal
Directed by Adrian Lyne.
Screenplay by Amy Holden Jones
based on the novel by Jack Engelhard.
Starring Woody Harrelson, Demi Moore,
Oliver Platt, and Robert Redford.
Loews Cheri.

By Douglas D. Keller

Prince of Thieves.

You're probably thinking, "Gosh, Doug I never thought to ask that question," or "I don't think that any of those movies or camera tricks have anything to do with each other." You're right, they don't. But that doesn't stop Adrian Lyne (9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Flashdance, Jacob's Ladder) from putting his own high-gloss shine on this peculiar amalgam.

If you missed the hype, Indecent Proposal is about a married yuppie couple David and Diana Murphy (Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore) who fall on hard times with the housing bust of the late `80s; David is an architect and Diana a real estate agent. In danger of losing David's half-finished house, an homage to all he likes about architecture, they borrow $5,000 from David's father and drive to Vegas to win $50,000 to save the house. After being up $25,000, they lose it all. But don't lose hope -- billionaire John Gage (Robert Redford) has taken a liking to Diana and enshrines her and David in a suite at the Vegas Hilton. Rather philanthropic of him, eh? But Gage is out to prove something, that he can buy love just as easily as he buys land. He offers David and Diana, over a game of pool (The Color of Money), a million dollars if he can sleep with Diana for a night. After a brief morals search in their posh suite, it is decided that Diana will sleep with Gage. David calls his lawyer, Jeremy (Platt), to draw up a contract. Jeremy tells him that he shouldn't have negotiated without his lawyer because Jeremy could've gotten at least two million for Diana.

With the deal being consummated, David and Diana try to settle back into their normal lives. But their marital bliss has been shattered as neither of them can handle the consequences of this indecent proposal. The two decide that they need a breather from each other and split up.

Meanwhile, Gage can't get Diana out of his mind and so he tries to win her affections. In a scene reminiscent of the schoolroom one in Good Morning Vietnam, Gage interrupts a class that Diana is teaching after taking a second job as a citizenship teacher, to prove his true affection for her. Diana gives in to Gage's charm and begins to fall in love with him.

David realizes that he was wrong to distrust her but soon learns that Diana wants a divorce and that if he doesn't contest it, he can have the million dollars. Rather philanthropic of her, eh? But in a true philanthropic gesture David, finding Diana and Gage at a celebrity zoo endangered species auction, bids the million on a hippopotamus. A touching scene then follows where David explains to Diana that he was actually the better man and should have realized it in the beginning so that he would not have been jealous of Gage. David then signs the divorce papers and leaves.

In the limo ride home, Gage, in a sudden magnanimous gesture ( la Pretty Woman), gets rid of Diana because he realizes that Diana will never look at him the way that she did at David during the last, touching scene. The movie ends with Diana and David reaffirming their love at the pier that David proposed to her.

Basically, this movie is an attempt to validate the yuppie greed of the '80s and to reform this greed into the more "P. C." '90s. Everything is very posh, like the leather appointments of Gage's Rolls Royce limo. Gordon Gecko in Wall Street said "Greed is good," and Indecent Proposal seems to agree. Diana loves David, but her love is not above being manipulated and bought by Gage.

Lyne has done an admirable job in bringing his advertising experience to bear on this pitiful script -- making it a high-gloss vehicle. But most of the time the movie goes beyond high-gloss and approaches a blinding level. Indecent Proposal is chock full of trite camera tricks; the camera follows billiard balls, craps dice, and roulette balls in a dizzying display of special effects. Other camera trickery includes a dog licking the lens to simulate the pooch waking David up or the scene in David and Diana's kitchen when the camera takes on a skewed perspective which immediately reminded me of those of the Batman television series.

Indecent Proposal is a perfect representation of what is wrong in Hollywood today; it is devoid of any real substance or emotion, lacks creativity, and relies too heavily upon cheap special effects. The only memorable scene in the movie is when David and Diana make love on the kitchen floor (Fatal Attraction). I found this scene memorable because of a continuity problem. David's dirty underwear lands next to a lit burner after Diana throws it at him at the beginning of the scene. The underwear disappears only to reappear several frames later as it catches on fire as Diana moans, "David, you're pants are on fire."

At the beginning of the movie, Diana (paraphrasing Sting, I think) says, "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back then it was meant to be. If it doesn't, then it wasn't meant to be in the first place." For Indecent Proposal, I prefer this variation, "If you love something, set it free. If it doesn't come back, hunt it down and kill it," which is what Paramount should have done with this script.