Saturday 6 November 2010

Movie Review: Fatal Attraction (1987)

The movie that made men dread having affairs, and forever added a new dimension to rabbit stew.

Hot shot up-and-coming New York lawyer Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is happily married to Beth (Anne Archer) and devoted to his young daughter. At a book-launch cocktail party, he meets editor Alexandra (Alex) Forrest (Glenn Close). Over a weekend when his wife and daughter are away, Dan is seduced by Alex and they have a torrid sex-saturated affair.

Dan believes the encounter to be nothing but a one-off, but Alex has other ideas: she is quickly obsessed to the point of violence, and when Dan makes it clear that he has no further interest, she initiates a campaign of terror on him and his family. Alex progresses from psychotic to criminal in leaps and bounds, and makes use of stalking, self-mutilation, acid, kidnapping, and finally home invasions to get Dan's attention, while claiming that she is carrying his child.

Fatal Attraction may or may not be intended as a parable about AIDS: casual sexual encounters resulting in near-fatal long-term consequences. Regardless of the intent, it is a gripping film that works thanks to the sharply drawn contrast between Dan's near-idyllic home life on one side and the near-mad Alex on the other. In the middle is Dan's oh-so-stupid act of infidelity, an earthquake of lust with an aftershock that rips through his entire life.

Douglas is believable as the bright man with only enough blood to nourish one of his two strong heads, and Close gets the showy role as the wronged vamp with enough missing mental pieces to blow past all boundaries of reason to get her man. But Archer, in likely the best performance of her career, surprisingly emerges as the core of the film: her appealing portrayal of Beth generates the overwhelming flood of sympathy for the family unit under threat from Alex, and it ultimately falls to Beth to confront both her husband's betrayal and its consequences.

Adrian Lyne directs with an emphasis on a lot of flashiness, as befits a story where all emotions are cranked up and maintained at a heightened state. Fatal Attraction is a potent mix of lust, suspense, love and psychosis. It is attractive, but fatal only if its lessons are ignored.

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