The Proposition (1998)

R  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  27 March 1998 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 1,780 users  
Reviews: 41 user | 13 critic

Father Michael McKinnon goes from the UK to Boston circa 1935. For unknown reasons, he avoids at all costs the most prominent parishioners, Arthur and Eleanor Barret. Meanwhile Eleanor and ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Hannibal Thurman
Bronia Wheeler ...
Arthur Barret
Jim Chiros ...
Dee Nelson ...
Pamela Hart ...
Dossy Peabody ...
Torrey Harrington (as Tom Downey)
Arthur's Chauffeur


Father Michael McKinnon goes from the UK to Boston circa 1935. For unknown reasons, he avoids at all costs the most prominent parishioners, Arthur and Eleanor Barret. Meanwhile Eleanor and Arthur desperately want to have a child, but Arthur is sterile, so they hire Harvard law student Roger Martin to impregnate Eleanor, but unfortunately Roger falls in love with her. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


One man gave up everything he owned. The other, everything he believed in.


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

27 March 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Shakespeare's Sister  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$61,560 (USA) (27 March 1998)


$121,875 (USA) (3 April 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Scott Wolf and Matt Damon were considered for the role of Roger Martin. See more »


The narration of this movie is supposed to be Father McKinnon telling the story to Hannibal Thurman, yet there are parts of the story that Hannibal is in which would certainly not have to be told to Hannibal by McKinnon. If that isn't bad enough, there is a part of the narration (right after Roger agrees to be the surrogate father) that McKinnon says "Hannibal knew that.........." even though it is Hannibal he is talking to. See more »


Asperges Me
Composed by Anton Bruckner (uncredited)
Performed by The New England Conservatory Chamber Singers
Courtesy of The New England Conservatory
See more »

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User Reviews

Watch it for the actors, and weep for the film.
3 November 2001 | by See all my reviews

Great actors, good story - what went wrong? Kenneth Brannagh as a priest was an inspired choice of casting (If only all my priests were that ruggedly handsome & masculine, I would never miss confession!). William Hurt's presence, however, always seems to blur the edges of the characters he portrays. I never know where the character starts and the typical William Hurt begins (he did a great job though, I was almost convinced). Madeline Stowe is both brilliant and radiant as Eleanor (a pleasant surprise from her typically subdued ingénue roles!). Blythe Danner is a gem (as usual) even though she is horribly miscast, this lady is really foxy - far from the matronly and bitter spinster she plays. Neil Patrick Harris is always a treat (it's hard to forget him as "Doogie", he could play a cab driver and still be endearing and sweet).

It's amazing how art reflects life. The movie deals with death and I couldn't help grieving because this could have been such a great film. The story had (at the risk of being corny) all the timeless symbolism and core themes of love and life. I was excitedly anticipating to see how these themes (such as that of human creation, as dealt with through the issue of "baby-making", or the relationship between religion and gender etc. etc.) were fully explored. Stowe and Brannagh make a tantalizing pair. They remind me of some sort of "fully ripe" Adam and Eve! (their love scene could have been sooo much better).

Like I said, I kept wondering "What went wrong?" : The actors were exemplary (probably to overcompensate for the movie's weaknesses). The story itself was quite good but the plot line was seriously flawed. The cinematography was exquisite, but the scenes were poorly set up (there's one where saucy family secrets are revealed - where else? but in a soup kitchen!). I don't know much about the art of movie-making (movie-watching, maybe) but I think even a seasoned film professional will watch this movie with tears after seeing such a great cast and good concept go to waste. (Like I said, the movie is sad, unfortunately because of reasons other than it intended).

I propose that this movie be redone and soon! (With Brannagh, Stowe and everyone in it, except Hurt and Danner)- yeah right!

The other option is for it to remain as a prime example of when great acting meets a good movie idea, but the sparks just don't fly.

Watch it for the actors, and weep for the film.

10 of 17 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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