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The Proposition Review

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Man of the people Father Michael McKinnon is sent, against his will, to a wealthy Bostonian parish. For private reasons he avoids Arthur and Eleanor Barret two of his most prominent parishoners. Meanwhile, Arthur and his writer wife are struggling to have a baby, so he hires a young law student Roger to impregnate his wife. Things become more complicated when Roger falls for Eleanor, and the reason for Father Michael's aversion to the Barrets becomes clear.

★★★★★

Here's something you don't often see nowadays: a florid romantic melodrama so embarrassingly, hilariously, deliciously awful it's almost compulsive viewing. This is easily the biggest unintentional hoot since Melanie Griffith infiltrated Nazi Germany in Shining Through. The idea is that an exceptional woman powerfully affects three men's lives because they can't help worshipping her. The hapless Branagh — whose participation may hopefully be attributed to some sort of contractual entrapment — plays a Catholic priest and man of the people dismayed to be posted to a wealthy Boston parish in the 1930s. Particularly repugnantto him are the fabulously rich Arthur and Eleanor Barret (Hurt and Stowe), to whom he has a secret connection, which is but one of many side-splitting revelations in a tortured scenario. Mrs. B. is allegedly a brilliant writer and advanced thinker, but you'd never guess it as she languidly drips around wearing her silk pyjamas and yearning for a baby. Mr. B. is sadly sterile but engages the stud services of a naive youth (Neil Patrick Harris) to sire him an heir. Meanwhile Blythe Danner sneaks around as the housekeeper with a past and Father Branagh finds himself embroiled and seduced amid crises of ovulation, murder, faith, etc. Debuting screenwriter Rick Ramage seems to believe feminism — as poorly championed by milady Eleanor — began in the 30s. He also seems to have been plundering cheesier romance novels of yore to have come up with such priceless dialogue as Hurt's query to the wife who's threatening to leave him: "Who will draw your bath so you may luxuriate in bubbles from Paris?"

Director Clatter, a former choreographer, takes a "more is more" approach, with stormy nights, galloping steeds and a lushly intrusive musical score putting icing on the cake of a film which earns an extra star for unintentionally rivetting absurdity.

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