MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Psychological Thriller/Stars: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer, Ellen Hamilton Latzen, Stuart Pankin, Ellen Foley, Fred Gwynne, Meg Mundy, Tom Brennan, Lois Smith, Mike Nussbaum, J. J. Johnston, Michael Arkin, Jane Krakowski/Runtime: 119 minutes
If there is one fear that I think is universal for all members of the human race that are of the gender known as male it would be the fear that we will have a fling with someone whilst in a relationship with someone else and the person we had the fling with turns out to be a rip roaring psycho who proceeds to try and tear our entire life to shreds worse than paper going down a shredder. It is with that in mind that very much in a similar vein like the scorned and mentally unhinged lover who decides to engage in a terrifying campaign of what literally comes close to domestic terrorism following a hot and steamy fling, the slice of cinematic pie that is Fatal Attraction proved to be one movie that would not go away when it came out in the long gone year that is 1987. Indeed this thriller that proved to be way to relatable was not only easily the most discussed movie when it came out, but also one that managed to make quite a bit of money, managed to garner at least 6 Oscar nods, and also became a new topic of discussion for people to engage in over copious amounts of drinks at a variety of society functions. Indeed it really shouldn’t matter that this terrifying glimpse at cheating coming back to seriously bite a guy in the butt in the worst way possible was merely a very good but not great slice of cinematic pie that took a plot that was surprisingly in equal measure both quite topical and actually leaves you something to think about and then proceeds to take it as far as you can and then some. Yet even with that in mind there is no denying that this film found a way to flick just the right nerve in society at just the right time and it is perhaps because of that that this slice of cinematic pie is still highly regarded to this very day rather than for a lot of reasons that might deal with the actual film itself. Yes this movie is by and large a potent and riveting suspense-filled ride, but this film also possesses a conclusion that goes slightly off the rails whilst also transforming both a truly iconic female antagonist and a thought provoking morality fable into something resembling a horror film. Yet even with that in mind, there is no denying that at least 90-95% of this film including the work done both in front of and behind the camera does make for a quite enjoyable ride even if it still does make guys, including this one, squirm uncomfortably in our seats.
The plot is as follows: Fatal Attraction tells the story of a man by the name of Dan Gallagher. Mr. Gallagher by all outward appearances is a man who has a wonderful, if not slightly stressful and time consuming, job as an attorney and who also has a loving relationship with both his beautiful wife Beth and their little girl Ellen. Yet things soon take a turn when, following their paths crossing at a work party and a subsequent emergency work meeting the following day, our intrepid hero decides to have dinner with a new co-worker by the name of Alex Forrest. A co-worker whose beauty, wit, and charm soon win Dan over and result in him having a quick yet deeply passionate weekend affair with her whilst his wife and daughter are out of town for the weekend looking over a new home they’re thinking of moving to as well as visiting her grandparents. Yet even though Dan is able to move on rather quickly from this seemingly minor misstep in a life that has otherwise been on the straight and narrow and act as if nothing happened, Alex is not. Like at all. In fact I think the phrase “horrifyingly obsessed” might be the best descriptor here for what this woman is going through. Thus what started out for our stalwart hero as just a weekend of pleasure and no strings-attached sex is quickly and terrifyingly turning into no more and no less than a living nightmare. Yet although it is a nightmare that he may have brought on himself, it is also one he is going to close the book on all by himself as well lest he wish to lose everything and everyone that he holds dear in this world…..
Now perhaps the best thing this slice of cinematic pie has going for it besides the immensely gifted work done by the cast is just how casually this movie chooses to approach the proverbial affair at the beginning. Indeed both in the actual movie itself as well as in the helmer’s chair, this film really does seem to adopt a quite relaxed tone that seems set on watering down how crucial this fling is not to the narrative, but rather to the characters of Dan and Alex. Indeed in front of the camera, we see Dan and Alex just accept themselves having this chance encounter and the feelings they have for each other are magnetic, but not in a way that is completely overwhelming. As such, we see that the fling begins and concludes with not even a nod towards either the physical or psychological fallout that is about to ensue. Instead the film chooses to make it work brilliantly in the context of the narrative and chooses to make it appear to just be a casual no strings attached one time only occurrence in the lives of the 2 people involved with neither one seemingly showing any interest in taking it further (at least at first). As for the work done behind the camera, we see that film helmer Adrian Lyne is able to provide these moments in the film with a relaxed and nonchalant vibe to them whilst never tipping his hand toward any real quandaries of a moral nature and instead lets things occur with a degree of innocence that never seems to give any indicator that something seriously amiss is right around the corner. Thus, the camera is permitted only to just observe what is occurring and puts it completely in the hands of the performers to sell the audience on this whole thing. Suffice it to say that Close and Douglas both do a wonderful job of doing so courtesy of providing to the proceedings a vibe that this whole thing is going to be as sweet and as seemingly harmless as say an adorably fluffy bunny with white fur and long ears. Having said that though, the moment that things do start going downhill, Lyne is able to show how both sides are coping extremely well as we get for Alex a shot of her on the floor slowly flickering a light on and off as if to show her tenuous grip on sanity finally beginning to fade. On the other side of the coin, we see that there is a steadily rising amount of both anger and fear growing inside Dan that is best symbolized in the film whenever a phone begins to ring. An occurrence that for our poor beleaguered hero could very well represent his secret coming out and his whole world fading to nothing. Hats off to film helmer Adrian Lyne therefore for being able to make both the affair and it’s truly chaotic aftermath
Now even in the face of a narrative that, thanks to the onslaught of slices of cinematic pie incredibly similar to this one, by today’s standards as fairly run of the mill if not downright predictable at points, this slice of cinematic pie still is able to operate with a beautifully ominous and edge of your seat mood due in large part to the performances given to us by the gifted cast in front of the camera. This starts with Michael Douglas who has always been one of my favorite actors and is in top form here as Dan Gallagher. Yes this is a role that could honestly have been played by almost anyone due to the character operating as sort of an everyman type character, but in Douglas’ more than capable hands the character becomes quite multidimensional as well. This is because whereas yes you do (or at least on some level should) feel bad for him as this obviously unhinged woman wrecks complete and utter havoc on his life you also don’t feel 100% bad for him because in all fairness he did bring this on himself and Douglas manages to make both facets of this character work wonderfully. I also really enjoyed Anne Archer’s performance in this as Beth Gallagher as she brings a much needed sense of both devotion and decency to this. Indeed if there is a character that I 100% feel bad for every single time I watch this it’s her because she is the only character in this besides the little girl who is not even remotely slimy in this and instead is more the tragic victim of both her husband’s infidelity and his lover’s clearly psychotic vengeful machinations and Archer does a wonderful job at bringing the character to life. Yet even with those performances in mind, they still don’t hold a candle to the one given by Glenn Close. Indeed her character’s deranged and clinging peculiarities might not be readily observable when she first puts Dan under her spell, but she does give a hint of fairly early on when he has to leave not because he has to get home to his family, but just so he can get some work done. From there we see what looks like a clingy person slowly but surely transform into someone possessing an obsessive and downright homicidal rage that honestly would do just about anything to get Dan to get back with her rather than stay with his family. Yet for how twisted and menacing the character of Alex Forrest is, she also has a surprising degree of sympathy towards her and Close manages to bring all of this to the table in a performance that is truly legendary.
All in all and at the end of the day I think it’s safe to say that although Fatal Attraction is one film that might be looked back on more for the uproar that it conjured up and the changes in society that it triggered more so than a lot of the actual ingredients to be found in the film itself. Yet in all fairness that is completely alright by me since even though this slice of cinematic pie is very much so an 80s movie it is also a movie that holds up quite a bit better than a lot of other 80s film and if you can make your way through the, by this point in time, cliché dramatics and certain shocks that have become etched into the realm of pop cultures, you will see that there are thought-provoking concepts that are even to this day just as timely as ever thus ensuring that this slice of cinematic pie will stay a riveting film as long as men and women believe in the concept of marriage and that the most on a whim actions will have absolutely no fallout whatsoever. On a scale of 1-5 I give Fatal Attraction “87” a solid 4 out of 5.