Movies I Need To See Before I Die: FATAL ATTRACTION (1987)


(This is a column where I review movies that I have never seen, but SHOULD have.  Being a film Geek, I have seen a ton of films.  But life is also very short, and for one reason or another, there are quite a few flicks that I have never got to.  Sure, it probably doesn’t matter if I ever see a movie like PARENTAL GUIDANCE, but a movie like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA…. well, I should have seen that already.  I’m a film geek for God’s sake!  I have now decided that I should get on that before I get too old.  I have compiled a list of films that I WANT or NEED to watch, and am going to start watching them when I have spare time.  So I will randomly be posting reviews of movies that I have always wanted or needed to see.  Enjoy!)

I’ve seen all the parodies and pretty much knew every plot point about this movie.  I’ve seen all the famous clips and I’m pretty sure I saw the ending on Network television when I was in Junior High.  But I’ve actually never SEEN it.  To be honest, this sub genre of the “sexy thriller” has never appealed to me.  I’ve still never seen BASIC INSTINCT and DISCLOSURE either.  I did see SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY.  It was okay, but nothing I’d ever sit through again.  So why did I decided to watch this?  Well, its one of the most popular movies of all time, and most everyone has seen it.  It was also nominated for multiple Academy Awards back in 1987, so that automatically puts it on my list to see.  I love to see all the nominations of every year just to see how they compare with each other.  And for some reason, I was kind of in the mood to watch it tonight.

Michael Douglas plays a happily married lawyer named Dan.  He and his wife (Anne Archer) are living a great life.  They have a wonderful daughter and are about to move from the city to a gorgeous country house.  Well, one night while Dan’s wife is away, he meets an intriguing woman named Alex Forest.  They hit it off right away and decide to have an affair.  Dan is very up front to her about his marriage.  After one hot weekend together, Dan says goodbye to Alex thinking that this was supposed to be just a one time deal.  But Alex ends up being a lot less secure than he thought.  Whoopsie!  She’s a full-fledged loon as he soon discovers when she slits her wrists when he tries to leave her apartment.  He helps her through it and then goes back to his wife.  But Alex isn’t done with Dan.  She keeps pursing him even though he makes it very clear that he doesn’t want to see her anymore.  Well, she keeps getting worse and worse throughout the film.  She calls his house, shows up at his job, introduces herself to his wife, and even picks up his kid from school!  Things keep building until it explodes at the intensely violent finale.

On one hand, I’m a bit surprised that something this sleazy and trashy got nominated for best picture.  But on the other hand, I completely understand how this got a nomination due to its top notch directing and outstanding performances.  I really had no desire to watch this.  It felt more like an obligation.  But man, am I glad I decided to check it out because it’s a very watchable thriller.

First of all.  That love affair in the beginning.  Wow!  It’s just smoking hot!  You immediately believe the attraction between the two characters, and the sex scenes are passionately rough.  You can tell these people are really into each other.  But when Alex starts going off the deep end.  Holy shit!  Look out.  I loved how the movie builds slowly.  Each thing Alex does is slightly more desperate than the last, and the tension gets extremely thick by the end of the picture.  There’s some great moments and set pieces throughout.  A few examples would be when Alex slits her wrists.  It’s revealed in a very surprising and shocking way.  The rabbit scene (that’s all I’m saying).  And there’s a great (not quite final) confrontation between Dan and Alex after his wife is nearly killed.  It’s a completely wordless sequence, and it’s just outstanding and extremely well executed.  Of course, the finale is a crowd pleaser (though it originally wasn’t supposed to be, but the ending was re-shot after poor test screenings).

Michael Douglas is so good in this that he actually ended up being typecast as this type of character in many other films including BASIC INSTINCT and DISCLOSURE.  He plays the every man quite well, and of course when things get intense, he knows how to punch up his performance.  Glenn Close gives an absolute iconic performance as Alex Forest.  Her transformation his completely believable and frightenly fascinating to witness.  I love how she starts of all sweet and seductive.  You really can see why Dan would be attracted to her.  And that took me by surprise because normally I think Close is kind of icky looking.  Normally I think she looks like dude, kinda.  But here, she’s at her sexiest.  And when she goes completely nuts at the end, it’s terrifying.  She deserved that Oscar nomination.  She lost to Cher for MOONSTRUCK.  I haven’t seen that one yet, but shit….. Cher better be fucking good in that movie to win over Close in this.  Both Douglas and Close have dynamite chemistry together.  I must also commend the actors for diving into the sex scenes and nudity.  There was no holding back here.  Anne Archer was also nominated for her portrayal of Dan’s wife.  The role itself is kind of thankless, but Archer gives a lot more to the character than the script gave her, I think.  She’s really good here.  My only complaint is that Fred Gwynne is in this, and he’s completely wasted as Dan’s boss (I think).  I heard that most of his performance was left on the cutting room floor, which was pretty obvious to me.

Adrian Lyne’s direction is terrific.  Brian De Palma was originally supposed to be the director here (but was fired because he wanted to replace Douglas).  Now, while I think I would have absolutely loved to see De Palma’s trademark visual style employed to this story, Lyne’s approach is probably the next best thing.  He lets the camera linger on its subjects, almost voyeuristically.  The editing is also done in such a way that ratchets up the tension.  The story has since been imitated countless times.  And while this still wasn’t exactly original upon release (PLAY MISTY FOR ME), the approach to the material felt fresh.  I completely understand why this was an acclaimed film, and a box office hit.

It may be one of the oldest thriller stories out there (jealous woman stalking man and his family), but it’s executed brilliantly.  Solid direction, ,thrilling set pieces, and an iconic performance from Glenn Close.  It’s a sleazy movie, but a very watchable one.  The entertainment value for this one is very high.  ★★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)

– Rated R for some intense, rough sex scenes, nudity, strong language, and strong violence.  This one earns it’s rating admirably. 

– Running time: 1hr 59min.

(FATAL ATTRACTION is currently streaming on Netflix)


Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Movies I Need To See Before I Die, Reviews

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