If you could lend your wife to prostitution for a night for a million dollars, would you do it? This is the cornerstone to which ‘Indecent Proposal,’ based on a Jack Engelhard novel, built its hour and forty minute story. I decided to go back and watch the movie after realizing it’s one of those 90s movies I’ve often heard about but was too young to ever care about watching. I believe I was too busy with comic books and video games at the time. So on a Thursday morning I decided to go back to a time when Demi Moore was still quite the vixen on the silver screen.
It didn’t start out well for me. The over-reliance on voice-over narration was a bit of a turn off. You have players on screen! Have them act it out for me. It felt like the movie was rushing for me to get caught up in what the filmmakers couldn’t afford to film. The audience was told how things were instead of being given a proper movie narrative. So by the time things got heated and characters faced their moral dilemma, I wasn’t really too invested to actually care.
But to be honest, I don’t really think the couple, David and Diana Murphy, (David played by Woody Harrelson) didn’t really have too much of a problem with the million dollar proposal made by billionaire John Gage (played by dreamy-eyed, Kennedy-esque Robert Redford). They had one restless evening and off to Gage’s office they go to accept the offer. It was almost a throwback to how prostitution was sometimes dealt with by the wide-eyed 80s, much like ‘Pretty Woman.’
What I have to note however is that contracts which compel parties to perform illegal acts are not legally binding. “Indecent proposals” are illegal in many states, so one might think it weird that a lawyer was involved in arranging the movies’ infamous dalliance. Prostitution is still illegal in Las Vegas, although it is permitted for counties with a small enough population. Even then, legal prostitution occurs under licensed brothels. I doubt if any licensing was covered under the hasty agreement, though articles covering impotence was covered. In any case, if they were caught, I’m sure Diana and John (how subtle!) would’ve only been served with a misdemeanor.
Going back to the film, I felt that the whole movie was rushed, not for wanting it to be longer, but it seems that characters moods and motivations just completely shift on a whim. It wasn’t terribly convincing. There are no build-ups and no believable reactions to things which would otherwise blow a normal person’s mind. I could’ve spent two hours on a different movie about a man dealing with his wife prostituting herself for one night, the mental gymnastics he has to go through. And what about the mental gymnastics Diana has to go through? It seems like she got over it in a day.
I haven’t read any reviews, but I’m sure feminists were up in arms over the movie. The casual treatment of prostitution, treating Diana like an object to trade, and Diana’s almost casual treatment of all the events, and later her falling in-love with her john must’ve been terribly problematic for feminists. It was problematic for me as well, but I felt that all this casual and almost naive treatment of sex and sex trade was again a reflection of the times. It still felt like an 80s movie. But despite its sins, it’s still a more mature and cynical look at the sex trade than ‘Pretty Woman’ was (but that doesn’t say much). And speaking of the 80s, the law office scene with the two screenwriter clients was so 80s that the only thing missing was the funky bass line.
I couldn’t finish this without mentioning how implausible it was to have John Gage, a billionaire who looks like Robert Redford, have trouble finding women, so much so that he has to spend a million dollars per night on other men’s wives. While I don’t blame him on spending money on Demi Moore, I probably would as well if I had the money, but I suspect that the movie makers were either saying A. money doesn’t buy affection, or B. rich men buy affection all the time!
The ending was terribly predictable. It speaks about looking at what you have and returning to what you have left behind, much like the way Paolo Coelho structured his novel The Alchemist. But again, this is a sin I’m willing to forgive. The movie was a product of its time. And during that time, we were willing to have this in our theaters. We were willing to have predictable endings and implausible plots on screen in order to pass time. Sometimes they work to a comedic effect, like Weekend at Bernie’s, and sometimes they work to drive home a sappy message. If you love someone, set them free.
It was good to see Demi Moore when I believe she was at her most attractive. I didn’t find her convincing at all, but I was willing to forgive that as long as she looked good on screen. Misogyny, I know. Woody Harrelson was alright, but I feel like he’s played this part so many times, and for some reason, I wasn’t buying him as Demi Moore’s husband. As for Robert Redford playing a billionaire, he was alright. There was nothing too exciting about him, except that much like Demi, he was candy on screen.
Should people see the movie if they missed it? Probably not. I doubt if they would stumble to any hidden truths about love, life, and laws regarding prostitution. Still, if you are bored on a Thursday morning, there are far worse things you can do than spend your time finding out where the term “indecent proposal” originated from.