Fatal Attraction must have been quite the film for suburban adults that didn’t watch exploitation films. Just think about cineplexes and mall theaters full of older adults learning that adultery can go horribly wrong. Then, think about that ending. The famous ending to this film was a result of reshoots due to a studio desire to appease the audience. Whether it’s the gangster films of the 30s or the relationship movies of the 1980s, people must know that crime doesn’t pay.
Director Adrian Lyne worked off a script heavily adapted by Star Trek guru Nicholas Meyer. Novelist James Dearden did his damnedest to adapted his source novel, but it was suggested that his script got far too into the nitty gritty of the main characters’ psychology. This was 1987 and people didn’t have time for that. Hell, you don’t hire Flashdance director Adrian Lyne to make a movie that moves that slow.
Glenn Close was right in not wanting Alex Forrest to be presented as a villain. She isn’t a villain in the same way Galactus isn’t a villain. Alex Forrest is a force of nature used as a stock face for things that people don’t understand. The legacy of Fatal Attraction rests in its ability to confront people while straddling lines. Are we shaming Alex Forrest and Dan Gallagher for being sexual? Who still has rights when things escalate?
The reason why Fatal Attraction went over with 1987 audiences was the same reason Paul Muni went over in Scarface in the 30s. The audience wants to experience bad things, but wants their community to know they accept the current status quo. 33 years later and Fatal Attraction would be a diatribe on why Alex was right and all about portraying Michael Douglas as some sort of Incel Patriarch. Don’t worry, people. Dan’s home life wouldn’t factor into whether or not the Incel label made sense.
Michael Douglas had made a career out of sharpening this image. Even as an old man, he seems to want us to buy him as a ladies’ man. I guess you had to have been a woman in the 80s to dig that sort of look. He always looked like Kirk’s Never Young son to me. Maybe he had a window of sex appeal during the Streets of San Francisco days, but only people in nursing homes remember those days. Hell, that market seems to be diminishing by the week.
Fun fact: Douglas’s daughter in the film is the same actress that played Ruby Sue in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. She’s the little girl that informs Chevy Chase about shitting bricks regarding Santa. I have to put something like that here or half of you guys fade out. Now that we have the 80s trivia out of the way, let’s talk about something I care about regarding Fatal Attraction. The film is very economical.
Serving as the first installment in the Paramount Presents line, Fatal Attraction offers up something special. It’s a quick movie that hit the Zeitgeist at the right time and took Douglas and Close to the next level of their career. Anne Archer was great, but she never quite capitalized on her moment. Plus, that’s not to overlook the strong supporting turns from Fred Gwynne and Stuart Pankin.
My mind keeps returning to that ending. The alternate ending is available on the disc. In that original ending, Close’s Alex Forrest slit her own throat and pinned her death on Douglas. When Anne Archer finds that original cassette tape confession, she uses it to free her husband and return things to normal. While a woman like this becoming self destructive is truer to life, it doesn’t play on film.
Again, let’s talk about that finale. Hell, it’s one of the prime examples of Cinematic Kayfabe.
Glenn Close spent weeks fighting the changed ending, as it makes sense that Alex would burn out rather than going on a bang. Plus, it’s pretty cliche that you have to give punitive power back to the other woman. But, it plays well as a visual and psychological confirmation of the rules of order. If you screw around, somebody might shoot you.
Anne Archer deserved her Oscar nomination. However, she was frequently at the short end of the performance stick. Fatal Attraction was a movie about consenting adults that broke the sacred bonds of marriage. Coming at the tail end of the Reagan era, audiences wanted to see an emotional version of the old gangster pictures. Fun and easy lives end in prison or the grave.
Glenn Close never stood a chance of surviving Fatal Attraction.
The Blu-ray comes with a new featurette about the production. Everything else was ported over from the last Blu-ray and DVD. I love the idea of the Paramount Presents line. However, I’m hung up on the fact that companies aren’t committing to physical media like they should. While Fatal Attraction gets a better presentation than most, is it that wrong to try and meet the Film Enthusiast market halfway? Being the first in the line, I’ll shrug and hope for the releases to improve.