Dir: Adrian Lyne, 1987
In the 1980’s, there was a trend for steamy cinema.
Although it was the age of the AIDS epidemic, and there was misunderstandings about the illness, films weren’t so culturally savvy to reflect the worries and fears of the world. Filmmakers still churned out insipid movie after insipid movie.
But Fatal Attraction was a different kettle of fish. A rallying cry for all women who have been scorned and carried a thirst for retribution, Adrian Lyne’s thriller was the smash hit of 1987 and the poster film for any woman who has been wronged.
Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is a lawyer making his way up the ladder at the firm where he works.
Happily married with a young daughter, Dan meets Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) and the pair embark on a weekend fling.
After Dan ends the affair, Alex begins harassing him and his family, but with each day that passes, Alex becomes more unhinged and will stop at nothing to get Dan back.
On it’s release, Fatal Attraction was fresh and original. It’s theme of psychosis and mental imbalance, aided by the raunchy sex scenes, made this a surefire hit.
Only a year earlier, director Lyne had made the sexually charged 9 1/2 Weeks, a film notorious for its eroticism and, for the time, explicit sex. Lyne was ideal for the job.
However, time is not always kind to cinema and Fatal Attraction is a victim of eighties excess and outdated stereotypes. The film now feels stale and stiff, with silly characterisation and stilted dialogue causing unintentional amusement.
As a hotshot lawyer, it stands to reason that he would, naturally, take an interest in opera because, the middle class are always depicted like that. Douglas recounts a story of his dad taking him to see Madame Butterfly when he was five, which he felt so enamoured by he cried at the ending.
Yeah. Alright, then! Because that’s believable(!). Proper grade A ponce!
Adrian Lyne makes Fatal Attraction into an oddity, as there is no clearly defined hero or character that we can root for.
Dan Gallagher is a selfish cheat, lacking any care for the feelings of his wife or mistress. His only concern is that he isn’t found out. As the thrown aside lover, we can’t hate Alex because she was treated so bad by Gallagher. In that respect, our sympathies lie with her, even through the bat-shit crazy stuff she does. But on the other hand, Alex was well aware what she was getting into and knew about his wife. So, now, the character isn’t worthy of our sympathies.
It’s a realistic portrayal, as human beings are not infallible. We are weak and make bad decisions. But, for the film, who do we cheer? This mixture of contrasting emotions, causes frustration and unease.
As Gallagher’s wife, Beth, Anne Archer is the closest person we can side with. A loving wife, it’s Beth that is cheated on and has her feelings destroyed. Yet, Beth is so underused that we can’t call her a hero, or cheer for because she doesn’t do anything. We feel for her, but that’s it.
America has always been dodgy about films with bleak endings. The thinking is, that everything must end on a positive.
With that level of thinking, test audiences hated the film’s ending and a new one was reshot. Of course, being the decade of the action film, the new finale had to include something along those lines.
This new ending, is out of place and looks tacked on. The very little realism that is present in the film, is completely blown away by a ridiculous and unoriginal finish.
To be fair, even the hated ending isn’t any better and is anti-climatic. At least the re-filmed one had a touch of excitement.
Although there are many flaws and unrealistic qualities, Fatal Attraction still has a lot of fun behind it and is a pleasant watch.
Outmoded, but it will make for a joyful two hours.