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FATAL ATTRACTION

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, May 8, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘Fatal Attraction’ was the second biggest box-office hit of 1987 (after Disney’s ‘Three Men and a Baby’) and earned six Oscar nominations, but no wins (for best picture, best editing, best adapted screenplay, Adrian Lyne for best director, Anne Archer for best supporting actress and Glenn Close for best actress). Critics were generally positive (75 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) but I was among dissenters with a mixed review as you’ll see below. A new line of Blu-rays is in release under the banner ‘Paramount Presents,’ debuting this film, Elvis Presley’s ‘King Creole’ and Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘To Catch a Thief.’ (And yes, this new release includes the film’s original ending as a bonus feature — an ending that would have made the film more satisfying, by the way.) My review was published in the Deseret News on Sept. 18, 1987.

There is one major difference between “Fatal Attraction” and “Play Misty For Me.” In the latter film, swinging bachelor Clint Eastwood is the object of psychotic Jessica Walter’s obsession after a one-night stand. But in “Fatal Attraction,” Michael Douglas is a family man with much to lose after a one-night tryst with the initially alluring, eventually dangerous Glenn Close.

In many ways this is a virtual remake of “Play Misty For Me,” to include several specific key scenes that seem lifted right out of the Eastwood film. But the twist is a fascinating one, as “Fatal Attraction” becomes the ultimate you’d-better-not-cheat-on-your-wife movie.

And the setup is quite promising as family man Douglas, who has a lovely wife (Anne Archer) and child (Ellen Hamilton Latzen), meets Close at a reception for an author, then sees her again in a business meeting the next day. His wife is out of town and he invites Close to have a drink.

Their drink together turns into a night together at her place, a wild tryst of passionate sex that stretches out into the entire weekend. Then Close begins hinting that she doesn’t want it to end. What Douglas felt was simply an adulterous one-nighter becomes an obsession to Close.

     

Glenn Close, left, Michael Douglas, Anne Archer, 'Fatal Attraction' (1987)

She calls him at work, calls him at home (hanging up when Archer answers) and eventually confronts him with the news that she’s pregnant. Douglas wants her to get an abortion, Close refuses.

Things gradually escalate and soon Close is trashing Douglas’ car, meeting Douglas’ wife under false pretenses and even kidnapping Douglas’ daughter. Through all this Douglas tries to play it cool and doesn’t tell his wife anything.

In fact, Douglas is so cool — keeping it from his wife, the police and becoming penitent only when his family is actually threatened — that the audience may begin to wonder if he hasn’t had other flings in his married life or has something more to hide than we know.

That’s a disturbing move for the screenplay (by British writer-director James Dearden) because it causes us to sympathize a bit less with Douglas than we should for a suspense-thriller of this nature. And making Close pregnant is another problem; we sympathize more with her than we might otherwise and it makes Douglas a bit more culpable for her actions.

On a more technical level, why in the world does Fred Gwynne have only one, unimportant. scene, and what happens to Close’s yuppie career when she starts going after Douglas (her job seems thrown by the wayside)? The answers to these questions doubtless lie on the cutting room floor but they are disturbing nonetheless.

     

The worst moment in the movie, however, comes at the end. I won’t give it away, except to say that fans of the “Friday the 13th” or “Halloween”-type killers won’t be disappointed.

On the plus side, director Adrian Lyne (“Flashdance,” “9½ Weeks”) does manage to build suspense and there are some hair-raising moments guaranteed to have you clutching whoever bravely attends this movie with you. And the performances are all quite good with special kudos to Close, most convincing as both an alluring woman on the make and, later, as a raving maniac.

But “Fatal Attraction” doesn’t hang together terribly well, and in the end the parts are much better than the whole.

“Fatal Attraction” is quite deserving of its R rating, for graphic violence, graphic sex, nudity and profanity.