Indecent Proposals | The Nation


Indecent Proposals

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Wang's ending is far darker than Pretty Woman's, and his intent is to show that money is a corruptive, alienating force (though the dot-com crash makes his take seem outré). Director of, among other films, The Joy Luck Club, Chan Is Missing and the chick flick Anywhere But Here, Wang has stated that he is "pro-woman" and that in The Center of the World he wanted "to show audiences how strong this character is, in spite of what she has to sacrifice."

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Amy Sohn
Amy Sohn, author of the novel Run Catch Kiss (Simon & Schuster), is unattached at the moment.

Yet the Florence he has written comes off as little more than a computer geek's wet dream; she moves sexily but doesn't have much to say. Despite one intriguing monologue about having held a job rescuing people from locked cars, she is devoid of nuance. When she pulls at a beer morosely we know she's "numbing herself"; when she applies lipstick we know she's "putting on an act"; when she stands in front of an empty pool we know her "life is hollow." Even her nurselike name is too obvious by half. Furthermore, the guy she falls for seems like such a socially inept loser that it's hard to see even a glimpse of what draws her to him.

In the final moments of the film Wang gives us a shot of Florence pounding away on her drums, but she comes off as bruised and weakened, more vulnerable than before. Though financially richer she is emotionally bereft and may never open herself up again. She doesn't seem strong, she seems wrecked for life.

Bridget Jones's Diary, written by Helen Fielding, Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis and directed by Sharon Maguire, supplies its heroine with a Hollywood ending but also gives her a rich character, a sense of humor and a brain. While Florence is slender, cool and matte, Bridget (Renée Zellweger) is chunky, compulsive and sweaty. Yet she's a striving compulsive sweater, so her plight plays as engaging.

After well-off barrister Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) snubs Bridget at a party, she develops a crush on her publishing-house boss, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant). Charmed by Daniel's smarmy wit, and status, she moonily gazes at him in his glass-walled office as he types on a flat-screen monitor and takes important calls. When he makes a sexual advance, she doesn't press charges but instead sends him a joking e-mail stating, "How dare you sexually harass me in this appalling manner?" and shows up to work the next day in a see-through top.

The blatant flirting is mined for comedy over sex appeal: She's thwarting the rules brazenly but seems prepared to accept the consequences; she seems less a slut than a kook. Though we know she's flirting with disaster we get the feeling that no matter what happens, she'll pick herself up and brush herself off.

Daniel's entire modus operandi with Bridget is to banter in a mock-sexist way. He calls her "bitch," "orders" her to come to dinner with him, and when she asks if he loves her after some kinky (read: anal) sex, says, "Shut up or I'll do it again." Yet Bridget is no pushover herself; she seems capable of matching him tit for tat. She blows him off the first time he shows interest, calls him a "stupid ass," challenges him when she's suspicious of his behavior and tells him how she feels.

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