Monday, October 8, 2012

Oh, No...Oh, God, No...: "The Proposition" (1998)



Easily the worst film of all involved, this ridiculous film makes "Days of Our Lives" look like "Citizen Kane."

The overly complicated plot involves rich and popular couple Madeleine Stowe and William Hurt. They are successful in their 1930's Boston world in everything except having children. Enter Doogie Howser, I mean Neil Patrick Harris, as a young law school graduate who is hired to sire an offspring with Stowe for Hurt.

Harris is hired by Robert Loggia, who wisely leaves the picture about midway through. Harris has some "comic" moments that make "Road Trip" look down right Algonquin, and eventually Stowe conceives.

Talk about your co-inkydinks, new priest Kenneth Branagh comes to Boston, not wanting to meet with rich parishioners Stowe and Hurt. Why? In a plot twist worthy of a Harlequin novel, Branagh turns out to be Hurt's estranged brother's son. He is kicked out by Uncle William, and goes back to his life at the church. Stowe, now pregnant, visits him, and in a plot twist worthy of a Harlequin nov...wait, I used that...anyway, Stowe happens upon Branagh burying an anonymous dead man- Harris, who was murdered. Stowe falls into the open grave and miscarries. Let me repeat that- Stowe FALLS into the open grave. Hurt makes himself scarce through the middle of the film, away on business, and Branagh and Auntie Madeleine become closer. Blythe Danner, Hurt's mother figure (huh?) suggests nature take its course, and Stowe could give birth to Branagh's child and then Hurt would raise it. That would make Hurt's child his actual first cousin once removed, or would that be second cousin, or...

Major league spoilers ahead: Branagh and Stowe give in to their earthly desires, and Stowe is impregnated. She gives birth to twins and dies during labor. Branagh is ready to raise the boys as his own, when he overhears Danner confess to murdering Harris, which I forgot occurred since it is repeated just twice more after the swan dive into the open grave. Branagh gives the boys to Hurt, and blesses them every Sunday. The entire film is a flashback told by Branagh to Loggia, who should have been privy to the plot but I guess was hiding under the craft services table during shooting.

The impressive name cast is terrible. Danner is Hurt's mother figure. Branagh is the young priest, and Hurt's nephew. It does not help that all these actors look the same age. Danner's role in the family is not mentioned until over half way through, in the meantime she comes off as a nosy servant with no social life.

Stowe plays an early women's libber, and I doubt this film will make it onto the top ten NOW film list. Stowe supposedly writes scandalous novels about women's property rights, yet we have no real indication of this. She mostly hops into bed a little too quickly to give Hurt a son. The couple starts the film lovingly, yet there are too few scenes to indicate why they loathe each other toward the end, or why Stowe keeps giving in to these stupid men, considering her social cause. Harris goes from intelligent law school graduate to overheated sex machine goof in approximately three minutes screen time. Branagh and Hurt spend many scenes looking at each other, as if trying to figure out what the other is doing in this mess. The film touches on everything from Nazi sympathies to women's lib to surrogate fatherhood to foreign trade to the stock market. The only thing not touched on is a decent screenplay and adequate direction.

If you are looking for yet another Hollywood attack on organized religion, this is your cup of swill. If you are looking for something to get your mind off those complicated daytime soap operas, here you go. If you are looking for a few Oscar winners and nominees going through the motions of a dumb script and embarrassing dialogue, we have a winner. If you are looking for a copy of this film, check the dumpster behind the video store. They said I had to return it by Friday, but they did not say where on the premises.

Pass on this one and rejoice in your intelligence. (*) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: The Proposition [VHS]