“You play fair with me, I’ll play fair with you.”
In a sensational milestone of the 80s thriller genre, Adrian Lyne solidified his reputation by combining two of cinema’s most eye-popping topics: sex and crazy. Fatal Attraction is not only an entertaining film but a brilliant marketing ploy. It’s got the perfect title, the big-name leads, and you can sum it up in just a sentence. There’s not a lot under the surface here, and you’re not missing out if you never watch this movie, but I still had a really great time with it. It takes a fun premise and runs with it, building steadily to a cathartic conclusion.
Michael Douglas stars as Dan Gallagher, a successful New York lawyer with a wife and child. His life takes an interesting turn when he allows himself a one night stand with Alex (Glenn Close), an attractive woman who proves to be dangerously obsessive following their encounter. As Dan first attempts to keep things quiet and let her down easy, he soon finds that his very life may be in jeopardy if he can’t rid himself of the past. As mentioned above, there’s not a lot to the story, but it never claims to be more than it is: a two-hour thrill ride with terrific conflict and some unsettling scares.
Glenn Close’s character is clearly what makes this movie special. You know she’s the villain from the premise of the movie and that she’s “crazy,” but the real question is how crazy. It’s often hard to tell how much of this movie is a progression, a descent into madness for her as a character, or whether she just does this kind of thing all the time. The film is also written to give her a compelling (though still unconvincing) moral argument: She doesn’t want to be cast aside; she doesn’t view herself as “one of those girls,” and the movie does a good job of painting Michael Douglas as a morally gray character as well. Fatal Attraction is a simple cautionary tale: Treasure what you have and don’t turn your back on the people who care for you. And watch out for crazy.
The thrills are a bit mild by today’s standard, but if you can immerse yourself in the 80s movie atmosphere, it’s still an effective work of horror. I was reminded of The Gift from 2015, a similar cautionary tale in which the ghosts of the protagonist’s past won’t be easily forgotten. It’s almost the same story, though The Gift feels more modern, and the scares are more shocking and creative as a result of recent trends in horror. In any case, these sort of films owe a lot to Fatal Attraction. The crazy stalker is always a fun concept, but the execution is more nuanced than you’d expect, and this film is a fine example of that.
Here we have a box office sensation with a lot of cinematic merit, and it still holds up as a fun two-hour thriller with some big names attached. It won’t change your life, but I guarantee you’ll be entertained. I certainly was.
Films Left to Watch: 882