This 1993 film is likely remembered not for the winning central performances of Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson, but for its central conceit: ‘ would you allow your partner to sleep with someone for a million pounds?’. Initially, the down on their luck, financially destitute couple (played by the aforementioned stars), decline the offer made by billionaire John Gage, played by Robert Redford. However, after a sleepless night of discussion, they eventually agree to it as a way out of their financial troubles.
It’s a shame that the character of John Gage was played by Robert Redford, it would have been far more interesting if the role had been given to someone less attractive / less charming and likeable. Redford is fine in the role, but despite a queasy unease during the scene where he begins his seduction on the boat, he is far too likeable and charming, never using the word ‘prostitution’.
For the feminists out there, who might naturally be opposed to the commodification of the woman in the film, I would suggest that the film actually portrays Diana as the only ‘right thinking’ character in the film. Initially, her husband wants her to sleep with Gage, but as reality sets in, he realises that he was not as morally flexible as he thought. He then pushes her into the arms of Gage, by reacting emotionally and erratically. Diana on the other hand is much the stronger character, supportive of her husbands dreams and ambitions and more easily able to divorce the physical from the emotional. She also finds work, whilst her husband is initially depressed, introspective and essentially ‘down and out’.
At the end of the day, the central premise proves more interesting than the film and it’s a shame that more was not made of the moral quandary surrounding the issue. For example, if you’d let your partner sleep with someone for a million dollars, would you also be fine with half a million, quarter of a million or a couple of hundred thousand?
The Director of the film (Adrian Lyne) does an excellent job, giving the film a 50’s inspired timeless feel to a picture that by rights should be far more dated. There is an especially well directed sequence as Harrelson’s character realises that he can’t live with the decision and races to Gage’s room to try to prevent his wife from going through with the deal. It’s directed as a ‘descent into hell’ and uses brighter colours, it’s quite an expressionistic sequence. There are the obligatory T and A scenes typical of erotic thrillers in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but they are so tame and stylised as to be robbed of any titillation value. I was expecting to love the musical score, as it was produced by John Barry, but the composition is merely average.
This film is often mentioned in the same breath as the far superior ‘Fatal Attraction’, that was released in 1987, but sadly the film really cannot hold a candle to that movie. This is a very slickly made ‘thriller’, but it lacks real conviction and bravery – it could have been so much better.
Rating : 5/10