, 119 min, 1987
Director: Adrian Lyne
Writer: James Dearden (screenplay), James Dearden (short film)
Stars: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer
Lurking somewhere inside Fatal Attraction is an impressive psychosexual drama. Unfortunately, what we see is what we get – a slick, smart psychological thriller that never quite goes completely right before going something approaching utterly wrong.
Michael Douglas stars as Dan Gallagher, a successful attorney who is more or less happily married to Beth (Anne Archer), a loving and supportive wife, with a young daughter. One night at a party, Dan meets a pretty blonde woman, Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), and strikes up a conversation with her. Intense flirtation and overtures occur, and soon they are whisking away to secret rendezvous for voracious and energetic sex in a freight elevator, on a kitchen counter, and (possibly) in a bed.
At first things are fine – he lays out in no uncertain terms that they are “two adults who saw an opportunity and took advantage of it” and he thinks that’s the end of it. Of course, soon Alex is calling repeatedly, showing up at Dan’s office, and even approaching his wife under false pretenses to get a look at what he’s trying to hold onto. She believes that they can have a “real future together” and he wants no part of it – even after an unsettling discovery that would bind any man of decent moral fiber for life.
With Dan’s increasing frustration and, yes, anger at Alex’s apparent obsession with him and her clear psychologically unhinged nature becoming more and more obvious, Dan begins to fear (correctly) for his own safety, and for that of his family.
The film has been directed by Adrian Lyne (Flashdance, 9 1/2 Weeks) with great sleek style and a certain heightened realism. The screenplay by James Dearden, inspired by his own short film, creates a more or less believable world in which highly intelligent and functioning adults can meet, have a highly-charged sexual affair, and potentially try to move on after that.
Unfortunately, this film begins to feel like a slasher movie in its third act, with Close being the female unmasked equivalent of Jason or Michael Myers – relentless and seemingly unstoppable. Furthermore, the most sympathetic character in the film is the cuckolded wife who is also the most underdeveloped major character in the piece, though Archer does what she can with the role. On the other hand, Glenn Close is a force to be reckoned with (literally) as the psychotically disturbed Alex, the ultimate nightmare for any aspiring adulterer; it’s quite a performance. If the actual film itself never lives up to the sum of its parts, it is a worthy effort nonetheless.
Note: Nominated for 6 Oscars including Best Picture, Director, Actress (Close), Supporting Actress (Archer), Adapted Screenplay and Editing.