Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 16, 2020


Glenn Close and Michael Douglas
FATAL ATTRACTION (1987). Director: Adrian Lyne.

Lawyer Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is happily married to wife Beth (Anne Archer) and the two have a small daughter. One night at a party Dan meets Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) and sparks immediately strike between the two. A second chance encounter leads into dinner and a heated sexual liaison, then an intense weekend fling. Alex knows that Dan is married but she is not to be put off when she demands that he see her again. Dan wants to think of this as just a pleasant interlude, but Alex is already making marriage plans. Before long she is phoning and stalking Dan and getting personally involved in the lives of his family. It's a question of who will break first, angry husband or angrier paramour.

Bad boy: Michael Douglas
Fatal Attraction is a well-made and absorbing picture although one could argue that it skirts the tougher questions. The picture also has an old-fashioned tone to it in that the wife in this is pretty much expected (after some initial anger) to meekly put up with her husband's peccadilloes, especially when you consider what Alex puts her and her family through. Then there's the fact that Dan shows not the slightest trace of hesitation or guilt as he throws himself pell mell into an affair when his trusting wife and child are out of town  -- he hardly ever seems remorseful. Some of this is due to Douglas' performance, a glibness that may inadvertently give a clue to Dan's (lack of) character. Anne Archer is more than solid as Beth, and Ellen Latzen makes an adorable young daughter.

Alex having a bad moment
And then there's Glenn Close, who steals the movie. Close herself has remarked how the film does not delve enough into the events or psychological traumas that might have made Alex the unwrapped person that she is, but Close does her best to vividly bring the woman to life in spite of it. Whether she's being flirtatious or murderous, giving vent to a psychotic rage or almost engaging the audience's sympathy due to her loneliness and unrequited feelings, she is always on top of things (she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar).

Glenn Close
But let's not be too sympathetic for her. While women who have affairs with married men often say, rightfully, that the husbands are worse because they are married, the mistresses (although Alex never quite becomes a mistress) shouldn't be let off the hook. Alex enters into the relationship with Dan even though she knows he's married -- it is possibly her sheer narcissism that convinces her that Dan will almost immediately drop his wife for her. The punched-up ending involving a bathtub and a butcher knife is like something out of a slasher film only not as gory. The film is compelling enough on its limited terms that it probably would have worked with its original wind-up. Considering that Dan is a prick -- not for how he treats Alex so much but for how he treats his wife -- I would not be so quick to say that the film has a happy ending. Dan may choose his next paramour with more care, but there will be more paramours in the future, you can bet. Cheaters cheat.

Verdict: Not exactly Hitchcock, but well-made and occasionally suspenseful and exciting. ***.


angelman66 said...

A very good film, one that's in my collection and that I've seen umpteen times. Douglas and Close have electric chemistry...supporting cast led by Anne Archer and Stuart Pankin also very strong. The ending gets a little over the top and ludicrous; I probably would have preferred the originally planned ending with Close committing suicide. But it's her most iconic performance, and Close is a very talented lady who certainly deserves that elusive Oscar one of these days...

William said...

I agree. She gave a splendid and multi-leveled performance as the star of the TV show "Damages" a few years back. Think she got an Emmy or two for that.