Skip to main content

Empire Magazine Greatest Movies List - #345: Fatal Attraction

For some reason Michael Douglas has made a career out of portraying flawed men who go after the wrong woman. I don’t know if it says anything about his personal life, but he is very good at it and the best example of this is in Fatal Attraction (1987). A film known for Glenn Close’s psychopathic performance that would give many men second thoughts when considering committing adultery, it is also a hell of pot boiler with many thrills, key of which is the pot boiler moment featuring an unfortunate rabbit.

I first watched Adrian Lyne’s film last week in Lloydminster, Alta., on Netflix, but the ending was spoiled years ago while I was living in South America in 2002. This is what happens when a movie becomes part of pop culture: other movies talk about the good parts because they assume you have seen it already. That was the case with Bridget Jones’ Diary (mom’s choice that movie night), in which poor Bridget watched the end of Fatal Attraction wondering if that would be her fate as well. Apparently Glenn Close’s performance also served as a cautionary tale for single women.

Fortunately, even with the ending spoiled Fatal Attraction is very well executed and beautifully shot. As well-to-do business attorney Dan Gallagher, Michael Douglas comes off as a guy who has it all: a good job, a beautiful wife (Anne Archer) and daughter, a family dog, and soon a brand new home outside of New York City. Yet like many successful people when temptation shows up he chooses to risk it all with an affair. In his defence, it is not something he had planned ahead. He casually meets Alex Forrest (Close) at a party, and then sees her again as part of a business deal. The meeting turns into a coffee break, the coffee break turns into an intimate conversation, which turns into an evening, and eventually segues into steamy elevator sex.

Dan feels the appropriate amount of guilt once the deed is done, but rationalizes it thinking this is a one-time deal and no one needs to know. Unfortunately Alex doesn’t feel the same, far from it. First committing an alarming act when Dan talks about leaving, she slowly begins to turn his life upside down. She insistently calls him at work, then gets starts calling at home, forces him to meet her in public, damages his car, and eventually shows up at his doorstep. This situation is not going to simply go away; it’s going to escalate.

James Dearden’s script treats the situation smartly by having Dan act as realistically as possible. When he believes Alex is becoming dangerous, he goes to the police saying “a friend” is being harassed and asks for advice. However once Alex crosses the line, he comes clean and confesses he is the “friend.”  More importantly he confesses to his wife with the expected results. Time to face the music.

Although Douglas is on screen for most of the movie, it is the female leads who received Oscar nominations for their roles and it is easy to see why. Close begins as a professional career woman who would not be out of place running a boardroom. It is very gradually that her behaviour evolves from obsession to total lunacy, while never veering into parody. You believe this is an actual human being with serious mental issues. Anne Archer as the wife also evolves, starting out as a happily married woman who has no idea her world is about to be shattered. However when the crazy hits the fan, she proves if hell has one thing worse than a woman scorned, it’s a mother protecting her family.


Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #70: Stand by Me

Another clear influence on Stranger Things, Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986) portrays American kids from a lost era in which they could go on an adventure away from home. Nowadays if children go missing for more than an hour parents try to locate them using cell phone apps, but in the story written by Stephen King four boys in 1959 Oregon go walking in the woods during a long weekend to look for, of all things, a dead body. Their lives are sometimes at risk, they have no way of communicating with their parents, but they will definitely have a story to remember for the rest of their lives.
For many North Americans adults this movie fondly reminded them of a time in their childhood despite the inherent danger. Not so for me since, first of all, there was no time in my childhood when I could possibly go out of the house for more than three hours without my mom getting in her car to go look for me. The there is the fact that I spent a good chunk of my childhood living in Chile and Peru, an…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #77: Spartacus

Spartacus (1960) is an interesting movie in Stanley Kubrick's filmography because it doesn’t really feel like a Stanley Kubrick movie. I don’t exactly know why, but his signature style doesn’t seem to be present unlike in classics such as The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, or Dr. Strangelove. It does however feel like one of those big sword-and-sandals epics in which you have British thespians acting as Roman politicians with the occasional big battle sequence. In that respect it is spectacular and features Kirk Douglas at his best as the titular hero.
The story of the rebel slave Spartacus has inspired a bloody and sexy TV series (so far unseen by me, but I hear it’s great) and the story behind how it was made is one of those cases of life imitating art. The Bryan Cranston film Trumbo tells how screenwriter Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted in Hollywood during the 1950s for his communist beliefs and had to rebel against the system by writing screenplays for cheap movies under a fake nam…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #79: The Thin Red Line

I once saw an interview in which Christopher Plummer said that what Terrence Malick needs is a writer. He was referring to his experience shooting The New World, which saw his role considerably reduced. The same happened to a much greater extent with Malick’s war movie The Thin Red Line (1998), which saw the screen time of many movie stars reduced to mere minutes amid a 170-minute running time. However you have to hand it to the guy: he knows how to make anything look beautiful, including the carnage of war.
Malick’s movie came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan, so I think that year I had my fill of ultra violent war films and was no too interested in seeing it. Sixteen years later I finally caught up to it on Netflix, but in hindsight the big screen might have been a better option since this is a very visual story. The plot is pretty loose, following one American soldier and sometimes some of his brothers in arms as they make their way through World War II in the Pacific theat…