Fatal Attraction (1987)

dexterpresentsfatalattraction

“Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage-
“go together like a horse and carriage,” as the song goes. You meet someone, get married, have children, a job, a life consisting of dinners with in laws and parents and get togethers with other couples. At least that’s the case in a perfect world. This movie is an extreme example of what could happen when a guy lets casual sex and adultery break the monotony of married life.

Michael Douglas (Traffic) plays New York lawyer, Dan Gallagher. He lives in apartment in the city with his wholesome and pretty wife, Beth (Anne Archer-Patriot Games) and an adorable six year old. He and his wife go on get togethers with a colleague and his wife. He is successful at his job and his wife is looking to buy their first house.

But not all is well in Dan’s world-at least not from his view. He doesn’t want to buy the house Beth has been eyeing, as it is located in ‘the country,’ that is, Bedford, New York, which would take him farther from his job and the city, but bring the family closer to Beth’s parents. And the presence of a small child does have a way of putting a damper on his sex life. There is one scene where Beth is undressing just a little after a party. Dan, thinking he might score, smiles only for Beth to remind him to take out the dog to do his business. When he returns from walking the dog, he starts to remove his shirt, only to see their six year old in bed with them, “Just for the night,” promises Beth, but the stage is set.

Enter the seductress, a very single femme fatale with wild blond hair and a low cut dress by the name of Alex Forrest (Glenn Close-Le Divorce). Dan first meets Alex, an editor, at a company party, where the hot author his firm represents premieres a new book. Dan and his colleague, Jimmy, are making fun of the author, making their way to the bar when Jimmy, who is married makes eyes at Alex. Alex, not wanting to be ogled by a fat, sweaty man clearly looking for sex, cuts him a nasty look. She eventually makes her way to Dan when his wife and Jimmy’s wife are off at the bar. They chat politely, and Dan laughs a little over the Look given to Jimmy earlier. She smiles and responds, “I hate it when a guy thinks he can just come onto me like that.” Dan only responds, “Aw, Jimmy’s okay, he just insecure like the rest of us.” It is perfectly okay for a married man to ogle other women, but it’s not okay for her to cut him dead with a look because he’s just insecure. It’s a pivotal exchange, and you can see Dan is just a little interested in Alex himself.

Though Dan has an attractive and dutiful wife who finds him his suit, she is not quite as sexual as she used to be before the birth of their daughter, who is whiny and demanding a pet rabbit. Dan also dislikes the prospect of moving from the big city to suburbia, and the notion that Beth seems to prefer the mothering, and the get togethers with other yuppie couples as opposed to meeting Dan’s, um-needs. This seems to give Dan the justification for meeting with Alex after a Saturday meeting, for…tea and crackers, that’s it! After they grab a drink, they go back to Alex’s apartment for raw kitchen sex followed by a night out salsa dancing then more sex in an elevator and back at the apartment.

With Dan’s needs met, even by an outside party, his outlook changes. He’s even a little happy at the prospect of a house in the “country” All’s well that ends well, and it is back to work and his family and the get togethers with other married couples. But it is not to be.

For you see, though Alex was told up front by Dan that he was married, Alex wants to be just a little more than a one night stand. She is lonely, wants a child and family, and she wants Dan. It starts with a suicide attempt when he tries to leave her apartment on their last tryst. Because Dan stayed with her until the bleeding stopped and she calmed down, she sees a future with him, so when reasoning doesn’t work, she calls his office and his house until he changes the number and has his secretary screen the office calls. She damages his car and threatens to tell his wife. When she learns of the location of the family’s new suburban home, she follows him, and in a particularly gruesome and nasty turn, she kills the pet rabbit Dan finally agreed to get his daughter and boils their new pet in a pot for Beth to find. She even takes the daughter from school and takes her to an amusement park (from the looks of the roller coaster, it might have been Playland, located in Rye, NY) while Dan and Beth are going insane over her disappearance.

This is a powerful movie, one of the best ‘erotic thrillers’ on the market, spawning several cheap imitations ridden with sex and violence. Glenn Close’s performance is incredible, sad and psychotic at the same time. By far the most powerful scene in the movie takes place on one of the many times she tries to call him after the weekend ends. The viewer sees a darkened apartment, the score to “Madame Butterfly” blasting when the camera cuts to Dan and Beth laughing it up at a bowling alley, having a great time with Jimmy and his wife, only to cut to a shot of Alex, forlorn and turning her lamp on and off. She’s irrational, she demanding, and I couldn’t help but root for her, even just a little, because she was discarded because she didn’t sleep with a married man herself and when she did fall pregnant as a result of this tryst, he wasn’t very sympathetic. There is some indication Dan didn’t believe her, and that he wanted to try to get out of the situation by suggesting the child might not be his. He later gets just as violent with her, slamming her head against her bathroom door and trying to choke her. Michael Douglas turned out a solid performance, and Anne Archer smiled her way through as Beth, only to break the happy facade when Douglas confessed to the affair.

Raw, emotional, and tapping into a few desires of what some of us may or may not wish to do to a lover who spurns, Fatal Attraction is a movie not to be missed!

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