Paramount Pictures | 1993 | 117 mins | Rated R

The early nineties seemed to be the golden age of the erotic thriller. Among them, were Paul Verhoeven’s box office smash Basic Instinct, Louis Malle’s Damage, the forgettable Sliver and Adrian Lyne’s Indecent Proposal. Released in 1993, Indecent Proposal is based on the novel of the same name by Jack Engelhard. Boasting an all star cast of Robert Redford, Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson, Indecent Proposal boils down to this: If a billionaire offered you one million dollars to sleep with your wife, would you agree to it? If the person looked as striking as Robert Redford, would that change her mind? That question fuels the premise of the film and never bothers to dig beneath the surface of the issue. Instead, Indecent Proposal plays out like a sexy romp with little insight or meaning.

Indecent ProposalHigh school sweethearts David (Harrelson) and Diana (Moore) married young but are in love and deeply committed to each other. David is an architect and Diana a real estate agent; they appear to be living the American dream until the recession hits. To build his dream house, they had borrowed a lot of money and now, with only $5,000 in hand; the naïve couple travels to Las Vegas with the idealistic goals of winning enough money to pay off all their debts. Big earnings on the first night turn into a total loss on the second. While in one of the hotel boutiques, Diana has a chance meeting with billionaire John Gage (Redford) who offers the couple one million dollars — a lifetime’s financial security — for one night with Diana. After what passes for soul searching, the couple accepts the offer and the necessary documents are drawn up by David’s attorney (Oliver Platt). Though Diana’s sexual encounter with Gage last only one night, it’s implications will linger for a long time. When Diana returns to David in the morning, they are both vastly different people.

Unlike Adrian Lyne’s usual way of handling things, the actual night of adultery is wisely kept of screen. What we do see is the aftermath–at least the surface emotions. David and Diana had agreed to go through with the agreement and then never talk about it again. Of course, in reality, that plan was seriously flawed. As we watch the film progress and this couple’s marriage crumble, the message seems to be that money can’t buy happiness. However, it’s hard not to feel like Indecent Proposal plays out like a bad soap opera.

The couple’s journey to Las Vegas and their chance meeting with John Gage make for intriguing cinema but from there on the film allows the relationship to fizzle for the sake of the plot and at the expense of the previously defined relationship. Though desperate for cash, the decision to allow the one-night stand comes far too easily and its fallout too predictably. The film never explores more than the most simplistic of repercussions. For a time, the movie plays as at once unsettling, depressing, and heartbreaking, at least until it moves into dull territory where it suffers from a contrived plot and ends with a whimper, predictable ending closing a second half that fails to capitalize on the first half’s compelling set-up.

Indecent Proposal comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. Heavy grain dominates most every shot. Viewers will note above-average levels of detail throughout, particularly in several interior kitchen shots of David and Diana’s home. Detail never fluctuates much between the foreground and background; objects appear generally sharp in both areas of the frame, though close-up shots don’t particularly stand out. The many interior casino shots don’t showcase an abundance of fine detail. Appearing slightly hazy, textures and depth don’t particularly impress but they don’t look bad, either. Colors do stand out; the aforementioned casino sequences show the abundance of colors one might expect of them. Flesh tones remain a neutral shade throughout but blacks occasionally devour background details. All in all, this is a reasonable transfer; not one of the best but very good.

Indecent Proposal arrives on Blu-ray with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. This front-heavy mix won’t blow you away. Ambient casino noise spreads out across the front to good effect, with beeps, buzzes, patron chatter, and the coins spilling out of slot machines playing well here and there. However, there isn’t a sense of total immersion, as the rear channels rarely come out to support the front. A few outdoor scenes midway through the picture feature the faint sounds of rustling grass, a blowing breeze, or a dog barking in the distance. Once again, the experience doesn’t necessarily impress but the results don’t surprise considering Indecent Proposal’s early 1990s release. Music plays clearly enough and dialogue never sounds muffled. Indecent Proposal offers up a suitable soundtrack that supports the film’s basic sonic needs but does little else.

Indecent Proposal doesn’t offer much in the way of special features:

Audio Commentary with Director Adrian Lyne: The director dryly fills us in on shooting locales, shooting around casino rules and requests, working with Robert Redford, why he likes particular scenes, etc.

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