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A 'Proposal' Intended for People, Not for Critics : Note to Reviewers: Write for Moviegoers

April 19, 1993|RICK PAMPLIN | Pamplin, a screenwriter and former congressional candidate in Palmdale, has directed low-budget action films. and

Robert Redford offers Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson $1 million to sleep with Moore in the film "Indecent Proposal." Movie critics howled, attacked and maligned the picture. The reviews were the most savage since, well, critics destroyed "Heaven's Gate."

I used to be a movie critic, first for a weekly newspaper and later for a CBS affiliate in Michigan. This was a long time ago--when I was 18 and 21. My qualifications for the job? I knew a lot about movies, I had opinions and I worked cheap. That was the problem--I only knew about movies, I didn't know diddly about life.

In the last 20 years I've crossed over the line and become a screenwriter, director and producer. I've also lived a hell of a lot. I've been broke and not-so-broke, a success and a failure, single and married, a father, a husband and a filmmaker. I'm not so naive anymore about life or Hollywood or the movies. That seems to be exclusively the terrain of film critics.


Let's look at "Indecent Proposal" ("A Laughably Implausible 'Proposal,' " Calendar, April 7). Critics ridicule the logic of a young, yuppie couple from Santa Monica who are down on their luck running to Las Vegas to score $50,000. I've spent a lot more time in high-rolling casinos than I'd like to admit, for professional and personal reasons, and have observed the high-roller Redford character and countless baby-faced couples trying to ride Lady Luck out of their troubles.

Just because a critic has not experienced or observed that particular aspect of life--Las Vegas and the desperate, lonely characters who populate casinos are real people--doesn't mean it's not true or implausible. There's a lot more to life than a darkened screening room. The loss of economic opportunities are making a lot of normal, rational people illogical and desperate these days.

I think there's a sort of "pack journalism" mentality among critics. They uniformly like pictures that audiences don't and and seldom disagree among themselves. Compare last year's top 10 grossing pictures to any critic's 10 best list and you'll see they're clearly out of touch with the moviegoing public. Now compare critics' 10 best lists to each other and they're nearly identical.

If critics aren't writing for the masses who patronize movie theaters, who are they writing for--each other? Shouldn't critics address the moviegoing public and their hopes, fears and dreams?

I liked "Indecent Proposal." It's an effective and thought-provoking motion picture, well crafted and beautiful to watch, which features an exceptionally fine and haunting performance by Robert Redford--possibly his best. But you'd never know that from reading the critics.


They called it laughable, embarrassing and absurd. Maybe it was viewed that way at their private screening, but I think critics ought to buy some popcorn, sit in a real movie theater and watch a movie with a real audience and not a bunch of colleagues.

By the way, critics should also come to their senses and stop giving away plot twists and endings--they should inform and review the movie, not ruin it for us viewers who didn't get invited to an advance screening.

Maybe most readers have already figured this out--they just don't listen to critics anymore. After all, "Indecent Proposal" did rake in $25 million during the first few days of its opening.

And in case you didn't know, "Heaven's Gate" is actually a pretty good movie. If you missed Barry Levinson's "Toys" over the holidays, check it out, and Mel Gibson was pretty good in "Forever Young" and. . . .

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