Fatal Attraction (1987) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

This is a complete spoiler, so skip it if you want to be shocked and surprised. I'm even going to spoil the ending which they didn't use.

At one time, this movie was all that people could talk about. It may have been the cultural phenomenon of 1987. I don't know how many boiled rabbit jokes appeared throughout the media, but more than I care to remember.

Michael Douglas plays a "happily" married man who gets crazy one weekend when his wife is out of town. He has an affair with a seemingly simpatico fellow lawyer. He thinks it is just sex, but it appears that the female (Glenn Close) mates for life, and is the power-tripping psycho bitch from hell. Through a series of maneuvers - sex, suicide attempts, late-night phone calls, bribery, self-pity, threats, cajolery, revenge, getting pregnant, terror, kidnapping, killing the family pet, property destruction, and more - she stakes her claim to Douglas as her private property, and there is no way for him to get rid of her. She "loves" him.

It maintains an excellent sense of escalating tension as we follow their strategies and counter-strategies. Douglas tries the police, counter-threats, breaking and entering, even confessing to his wife, in an attempt to take away Close's power, but she just keeps a comin', like Jason in those Friday 13th movies.


Glenn Close shows her breasts and a brief flash of her rump in the sex and apres-sex scenes.
In fact, the only real flaw in the movie was the ludicrous ending in which Glenn Close goes from being a garden variety psycho to being an evil unstoppable demon from hell with supernatural powers.  I think I once wrote that there can't be a good movie with a resurrection in it, and I appear to have been wrong, because this is a pretty good movie, and it does have a resurrection. But think how much better it could have been. Roger Ebert was right to point out that he sudden supernatural powers, coming completely out of left field, really screwed up the ending to a movie which was doing things very well without it as a psychological thriller about human characters. In addition, the brutal slaying of the Close-beast at the end seemed to ignore the fact that she was carrying Big Mike's baby. He wanted her to get an abortion, but I wasn't expecting him to take it on as a hands-on project.

DVD info from Amazon.

Commentary by director Adrian Lyne
Forever Fatal: Remembering "Fatal Attraction" - New, exclusive cast and crew interviews
Social Attraction: A look at the cultural phenomenon of "Fatal Attraction"
Visual Attraction: Behind-the-scenes production featurette
Rehearsal footage
Alternate ending with introduction by director Adrian Lyne
Widescreen anamorphic format, 1.85

The controversy was not really about the movie, which was after all just a story about two particular people who are not meant to represent the male and female genders. The controversy was over the male and female reactions to the situation. Some women felt that Close was an inaccurate stereotype. (They were wrong. She was never meant to be typical of anything. She was demented and abnormal.) Other women felt that Douglas received what he deserved for cheating on his wife. (They were kinda right. Douglas made his own bed, and he had to lie in it. I have no problem with him receiving moral comeuppance, but the wife and kid were innocent bystanders.) Men felt that she had no right to a piece of his life, while women saw a lot of validity in her position, if not supporting its obsessive extremes.

My take on it is this: there are four famous women who are obviously "off" - Loretta Swit, Sean Young, Glenn Close, and Shelley Long. If you get involved with these women, or any of their non-famous equivalents, you're gonna get burnt, lad. Glenn appears to be seriously disturbed in every sentence she has ever spoken in every movie. That woman is seriously creepy. Even her polished tones are obviously mean to disguise rabid lunacy. Big Mike shoulda chosen his sexual partner better or - here's a thought - should have stayed faithful to his wife.  

In my opinion, the original ending, which is included in the many DVD features, was much better. Glenn Close took the knife from the kitchen, after it was filled with Douglas's fingerprints, and she went home to kill herself with it in such a way as to make it seem that Douglas killed her. Her final act of revenge!

Tuna's Thoughts

Fatal Attraction (1987) caused a huge stir when it was released, with most of the complaints coming from the women's movement. They saw the Glenn Close character as symbolic of all single professional women, and found it a very demeaning portrayal. With all of the hype, I was disappointed when I saw it the first time. This time, without all the build-up, I found it to be a very good thriller. Michael Douglas, married with one daughter, and rising attorney in a large firm, has a weekend fling with Glenn Close. Little does he realize how demented she is, and she makes his life a real hell. Douglas has the ability to play "everyman," flawed but nonetheless likable. This role was a real departure for Close, who had never had a role where she had to be sexy and out of control, but she nailed it.

I wish I could say that the DVD was as good as the movie itself. It is fine in the special features department, with interviews, commentary, and the original ending, but the transfer itself is dark, undersaturated and grainy, and full of color noise when you brighten.

I admired two things about it. The first was the fact that the effect of one weekend of indiscretion was felt by everyone in the story. Guilt, of course, belonged to Close and Douglas, but everyone ending up a victim. The other thing I admired was the direction and editing.

Let me give one example. Douglas and Close have dinner together, and end up in her apartment. He mounts her at the kitchen sink, water running, and exposes her breasts, showing the urgency of their need. Then, with her legs around him, he tries to carry her to the bed with his pants around his ankles. The humor here lets the audience take a needed breath. We see them remove more clothes, then cut to a coffee pot percolating, then a slowly rotating ceiling fan, then pan down to them next to each other dripping in sweat. No risk of an X rating, a very hot scene, and none of the monotony of most extended sex scenes in films. The entire 119 minutes was cut with an economy that kept the story moving. This is somewhere between a high C+ and a low B-.


The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 2.5/4, filmcritic.com 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: $156 million domestic gross, $70 million more from rentals since then. An absolute cultural phenomenon.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. A good movie despite some flaws, and a cultural phenomenon popular (and controversial) with both men and women

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