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Alex Carnevale

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This Recording

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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in las vegas (2)


In Which The Life We've Been Living Will Bleed Us Dry

Messing Around


Indecent Proposal
dir. Adrian Lyne
121 minutes

When Robert Redford first sees Demi Moore in Adrian Lyne's 1993 movie Indecent Proposal, she's taking a handful of free chocolates from a dress store in Las Vegas. I'm not sure why they offered chocolates to their customers. Her husband is Woody Harrelson, an architect. A few years earlier, Demi grudgingly became a real estate agent to fund his dream: a house built on the beach. Woody works tirelessly on his plans for the house. When it's almost completed, it looks like this:

Perhaps disturbed by how ugly her husband's dream house is, Demi is prone to incipient rage about how she has to pick up his clothes, how he leaves the toilet seat up. Coincidentally, every fictional husband in history shares these exact same things. Maybe Woody has never seen a television show before, since there is no evidence of the appliance in his house.

After he loses his job and the bank threatens to foreclose on his beach castle, Woody tells his wife he'll do something, he'll drive a cab, or wait tables. Apparently all those jobs were taken as well. He has never heard of the internet, he doesn't even have one of those AOL discs you could find in any magazine in 1993. He calls his wife 'D', like maybe she's his streetball partner in White Men Can't Jump.

Not watching television has its detriments. When the bank threatens to foreclose on Woody's house, he wakes up in the middle of the night with a capital idea: let's head to Las Vegas! Leaving Las Vegas, unluckily, was still two years away from being made at this point, which probably could have saved both these people a lot of trouble. Demi says, "I love you." Woody says, "I know." Demi says, "Even without the money," kind of a strange statement, given all they have to their name is $25,000 at this point.

Still, the sex is tremendous. At one point they do a position that I hadn't known existed, it was kind of a free fall into a half twist on a bed full of money. They lose the very last of their money at roulette. Bob Redford has been killing time playing blackjack, waiting for this eventuality to become reality. After luring Demi in by promising she's only to be his "good luck charm," he invites Woody and his wife to his magnificent suite. "He just won a million dollars!" Woody groans, as if this were a matter of simple luck.

After they accept an offer of $1m for one night with Demi Moore, Redford picks out a really steamy dress for her: its smell is redolent of pears. She is presented before servants, and it is clear she is going to be sacrificed, the only question is to what. A ceremonial gauze adorns her life fluid. Bob Redford is dressed in all white, a regalia akin to command in the armed forces. Suddenly he gets this really hopeful look on his face:

In the bracing exchange that follows, Robert Redford's little erection feels like a gloved hand. "If you were mine," he says, "I wouldn't share you with anyone." He flips a coin to decide whether to fuck her, and it says he should fuck her. They should release an alternate version of Indecent Proposal with an original score composed by Nickelback, simple piano and violin intros and outros don't do justice to the spiritual malaise.

For the money he transfers to their account, it appears he takes her ceremonial flower. Demi's scent is now onions and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Bob makes her labor at menial tasks for his amusement, and then releases her back to Woody Harrelson.

Melodrama recognized as real life is the recipe for satire, but Lyne is not really aiming at that. His problem is not with these pathetic people but with this place and time. Indecent Proposal constitutes a European's critique of an overly crass America, made on their terms with their movie stars, the most obnoxious ones he could find. More than anything, Lyne finds Americans to be overly sentimental, not realist enough to survive the perils of life.

Moore eschews the buttoned up sexuality of her other roles in which she invariably played a soldier or widow. Her lips constantly pursed, she seems on the verge of an orgasm that sadly never arrives. Her imitation of an ingenue rebounds on herself, bouncing back like a miscast spell, dimming her potential. Her lawyer (Oliver Platt) evens says, "You probably could have had two million."

Redford's inherent cragginess deepens as he continues to purse the married woman. He just wants to sweep her to Paris, he says. It's the city of his dreams. The way he touches her back informs her she is a cherished heirloom, like a brunette brooch. He tells her he needs her.

Whereas the original novel of Indecent Proposal featured Robert Redford as a billionaire Arab who takes the wife of a Jew for his own nefarious means, Lyne's version has none of that. Redford more resembles the fabled pre-socialism Dutch archetype of Das Hammerschlong, the wealthy landowner who does not covet his neighbor's belongings, but ends up with them in the story's unlikely denouement.

As for Woody Harrelson's character, he takes a job teaching, and his enthusiasm for the work of Louis Kahn is entirely misplaced. His female students stare at him in admiration. When he tells them how much he loves the library at Exeter, he is entirely blind to the irony. Woody donates a million dollars to an endangered species charity to get Demi back, but it doesn't work, so the wisdom of Robert Redford has to be enough to set these gentile Americans aright. Dutch archetypes have such strange taste in women.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about Cameron Crowe's Singles.

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In Which Get Up And Shake The Glitter Off Your Clothes Now

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Las Vegas In Review


Rooms at the Venetian Hotel: A

Casino at the Venetian: B+

Elevator music at the Venetian: D

Indoor Venetian canal at the Venetian: A

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum inside the Venetian: B

Wax Figure of Larry King: A+

Wax Figure of Nicolas Cage: A-

Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man: A

The entire Venetian Hotel: B

Buffet at Caesar’s Palace: B-

Buffet at the Wynn: A+

Kobe beef carpaccio at Japanois at the Mirage: A

“Love” show at the Mirage: A

Beatle themed drinks at the Mirage:  C+

Beatle gift shop at the Mirage: A-

The Beatles: A+

The casino at the Mirage: B+

Free drinks at every casino: A

Getting carded for everything: A-

Repeatedly being asked if I am old enough to be in a casino: C

The Las Vegas Strip: B+

Open liquor Law in Vegas: A

The Sunset Strip: B

The traffic on both strips: F

The Vegas Episodes of Friends: A

Joey’s “Vegas, Baby!” catchphrase: A-

What everyone thought about me using said catchphrase at least 10 times a day: D

Ordering room service at 3 AM because it’s, “Vegas, baby!”: A

The way I felt the next morning: C-

Selection of movies in the hotel: B

It’s Complicated: D

Alec Baldwin’s fat little hairy body in It’s Complicated: D-

Alec Baldwin’s body in Beetlejuice: A

Beetlejuice: A

Everything Tim Burton Has Done Since (Not Including Ed Wood): C

Las Vegas: B+

Almie Rose Vazzano is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She blogs at Apocalypstick.

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