#315 Fatal Attraction

(1987, Adrian Lyne)

“I’m not gonna be ignored, Dan!”

We’ve looked at a lot of movies recently that I’ve not been overly impressed with (Run Lola Run being an exception), and that’s a shame. It began to wear me down and start to lose my enthusiasm to watch new movies on the list. And then I watched Fatal Attraction.

Michael Douglas stars as Dan Gallagher, a successful New York attorney who meets a local magazine editor called Alex Forrest (Glenn Close). While Dan’s wife and daughter are away for the weekend visiting her parents, Dan has a one-night stand with Alex, which quickly turns out to have been a bad idea. Alex suddenly won’t stop calling, and begins to stalk Dan, which gradually escalates, putting his family in danger.

Obviously, I knew quite a bit about this movie before I saw it. I knew it was one of the most highly-regarded thrillers of the 80s, and I knew it was about stalking, and of course, I knew about that bunny boiling scene. One thing I didn’t realise was that Alex’s obsession with Dan involved an actual affair between the two, involving Dan cheating on his wife. This aspect of the story I really didn’t like from a moral perspective, but I’ll try and put that to one side for the benefit of the review.

Aside from his cheating shenanigans, Dan was a pretty likeable guy. Michael Douglas played him charismatically and you can’t help but side with the guy for the most part. It’s not clear how much remorse he feels for his actions, aside from when he has to face up to them, but there are times when Douglas seemed to be trying to convey that he was sorry for his discretion even if the script wasn’t clear on this.

Glenn Close, too, was phenomenal. From the moment she appeared on screen something felt off about her. For every frame of this movie, Close portrayed Alex as a woman on the edge, ready to snap even before she actually does, and when she does, it feels real. Nothing about her performance felt forced or unnatural. She felt like someone who needed help and oddly, I felt sorry for her despite everything. I certainly felt that her performance was a damn sight more accurate from a mental health perspective than the lead of Taste Of Cherry, so there’s that.

Fatal Attraction is also fantastically-paced. The first hour of the movie is very slow, focusing mostly on character interaction and Alex exhibiting a few minor annoying traits in her phone calls and refusal to accept that what happened as a one night stand, but around the 60-minute mark, the movie shifts gears and sticks in tension mode for the entire second half.

I didn’t realise that it’s possible for a movie to maintain a consistent level of tension for a whole hour of its running time, but Fatal Attraction pulls it off. The infamous bunny boiling kicks it off and from that point on it simply doesn’t stop. Alex’s actions get progressively more aggressive and unhinged, and Dan’s position as the adulterer puts him in a difficult position as any attempt to deal with her involves an admission of guilt from him, something that would sacrifice his happy family life.

And that’s where I have to disagree with accusations of misogyny directed at this movie from sources including, oddly enough, the 1001 Movies book. Alex is crazy, sure, but it’s not like Dan gets off scot-free. He didn’t initiate the affair, but he certainly didn’t stop it. He realises his mistake pretty swiftly but has no way of fixing that damage without causing further damage elsewhere. Even when he tries to call Alex out on her actions, she gleefully calls him out on his. This is a movie that straight up says that if you have a happy, healthy family life, you probably shouldn’t wreck it by cheating. And it’s powerful.

I was gripped by Fatal Attraction and I’m just sad it’s taken me this long to get round to watching such a brilliant, tense thriller. I loved every minute of this.

Starring Michael Douglas, Glenn Close & Anne Archer
Written by James Dearden
Produced by Stanley R. Jaffe & Sherry Lansing
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography by Howard Atherton
Edited by Peter E. Berger & Michael Kahn

Favourite Scene: Not the bunny boiling, actually. I think I was more shocked by the scenes involving child abduction, to be honest.
Scene That Bugged Me: Some of the scenes during their fling seemed a little silly, such as them hanging out in public together, which…uh…you probably shouldn’t be doing if you’re having an affair.

Watch it if: You like thrillers about stalkers
Avoid it if: You can’t stand bunnies being boiled

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Posted on October 14, 2014, in 1980s, Thriller and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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