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FATAL ATTRACTION

It seems hard to believe that this very silly movie was taken as seriously as it was back in the late 1980s. Now, at least, it can finally be viewed as the misconceived goof it is!

The Package
     FATAL ATTRACTION was a monster hit upon its Fall 1987 release, and inspired many an op-ed piece about the issues it allegedly brought up, a fact that appears to have surprised even its makers (in a DVD interview director Adrian Lyne admits heís ďfascinatedĒ by the many readings the film inspired). It also set the template for countless subsequent movies, being the instigator of the erotic thriller cycle of the 1990s (see FINAL ANALYSIS, BODY OF EVIDENCE, etc), as well as the nanny/roommate/cop-from-Hell craze (THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, UNLAWFUL ENTRY) and much of the subsequent career of its star Michael Douglas (see BASIC INSTINCT, DISCLOSURE and A PERFECT MURDER, all of them very FATAL ATTRACTION-esque).

The Story
     Dan Gallagher is a successful NYC attorney who has an affair with the seductive Alex Forrest, who works for a publishing firm Dan is representing. The tryst occurs at Alexís apartment while Danís wife Beth and daughter Ellen are out of town for the weekend. When Dan tries to leave Alex slashes her wrists, conclusively demonstrating that her mental state is somewhat less than stable. After bandaging her up Dan manages to escape, and does his best to forget about the affair.
     Alex learns that she was impregnated during the weekend tryst. A horrified Dan instructs her to get an abortion and leave him alone. Alex responds by instituting a campaign of harassment, bombarding Dan with hang-up phone calls, pouring acid on his car and boiling Ellenís pet rabbit. At that point Dan Breaks down and tells Beth about his infidelity. She throws him out of their house, but not until after threatening to kill Alex over the phone.
     Alex kidnaps Danís daughter from school and takes her on a Coney Island rollercoaster, which so freaks out Beth she gets into a car accident. Dan moves back home to take care of her, which apparently negates his bad behavior. It all comes down to a deadly three-way confrontation in Danís bathroom--not to give anything away, but here Beth gets a chance to finally make good on her earlier threat!

The Direction
     To give credit where credit is due, Iíll have to say this is the first Adrian Lyne film that doesnít play like an extended perfume commercial (which his previous features FOXES, FLASHDANCE and 9Ĺ WEEKS all did). Still, the film looks downright ugly with its quintessentially Lyne-ish smoky and diffused visuals. Worse, despite all the ink that was spilled about its alleged social relevance, the script is highly derivative (of the original CAPE FEAR and PLAY MISTY FOR ME) and dodges most of the issues it brings up by turning Alex into a one-dimensional psychopath--and so obscuring the fact that it was the selfish and impulsive actions of the ďheroĒ that set her off in the first place!
     Lyne at least has a real instinct for commercial moviemaking, and seeing FATAL ATTRACTION in movie theaters in 1987 was akin to viewing STAR WARS back in Ď77; audiences actually cheered when Beth threatens to kill Alex over the phone, and also at the ending. Regarding that ending, itís become well known that it was a reshoot; in the original conclusion Alex commits suicide and Dan is falsely imprisoned for her murder. After test audiences reacted negatively to the conclusion a new DIABOLIQUE inspired ending was shot in which Alex threatens Beth with a knife, leading to a bathtub scuffle and a final TERMINATOR-esque resurrection by Alex. It quickly became chic among critics to decry the new ending, but Iíll split the difference: I say neither conclusion is satisfying, with the first (contained on the DVD) being overly subdued and the second too overwrought by far.
     Acting-wise, former real-life sex addict Michael Douglas essentially plays Michael Douglas (as usual), while Glenn Close makes a conditional success of her role despite the fact that sheís hopelessly miscast as a seductress--indeed, it makes little sense that Douglas would even notice Close since Anne Archer, who plays his wife, is far hotter in every respect.
 

Vital Statistics

FATAL ATTRACTION
Paramount Pictures

Director: Adrian Lyne
Producers: Stanley R. Jaffe, Sherry Lansing
Screenplay: James Dearden
Cinematography: Howard Atherton
Editing: Peter E. Berger, Michael Kahn
Cast: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer, Ellen Hamilton Latzen, Stuart Pankin, Ellen Foley, Red Gwynne, Meg Mundy, Tom Brennan, Lois Smith, Mike Nussbaum, J.J. Johnston, Michael Arkin, Jane Krakowski 

     

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