Film Review: Fatal Attraction (1987)

“I’ll pity you because you’re sick.
‘Why? Because I won’t allow you treat me like some slut you can just bang a couple of times and throw in the garbage?'”

It was hugely fascinating to go back and watch Fatal Attraction for the first time in ages, and also read about and around it, for its cultural impact is one that speaks a lot about the movie industry and also the people that watch those films. Adrian Lyne’s 1987 became the highest grossing film worldwide that year and scored 6 Academy Award nominations (including a nod for star Glenn Close) but the tidbit that still amuses me most is that it introduced the term ‘bunny-boiler’ into the lexicon.

Ah yes, that poor rabbit. One of the victims of Alex Forrest’s rampage after a one-night-stand with colleague Dan Gallagher doesn’t result in him leaving his wife and kid. Psychologically unstable with what we would now classify as mental health issues (though psychiatric thinking at the time did not agree, Close settled on obsessive disorder de Clérambault’s syndrome as a diagnosis), Forrest drives herself to more and more extreme acts to get her man until something has to break but not so much that the sanctity of the American nuclear family model isn’t preserved.

For James Dearden’s original screenplay tested poorly with audiences and elements of the film, including crucially the ending, were reshot. So Close’s Alex became substantially ‘crazier’ and more villainous and Michael Douglas’ Dan more of a victim to her predatory feminine wiles which unbalances the storytelling, especially to modern eyes. He’s just as culpable in the commitment of adultery – he’s the married one after all – and his callous behaviour later on is breathtaking, yet studio bosses dictated that we should feel sympathy with him.

And for an actress who had meticulously researched and come to a deep understanding of her character’s immense issues, it must have been a seriously disheartening experience. Indeed Close resisted the idea of reshoots for months but was finally persuaded otherwise, to give us an iconic final sequence sure, albeit one that niggles ever so slightly. For the stage version that came to London a couple of years ago (which I had completely forgotten about to be honest), Dearden reinstated his original ending, indicating his own dissatisfaction with the way things played out.

Still, it remained something of an enjoyable watch, a reminder of the sexual panic of the 1980s (it’s hard not to feel there’s something of an AIDS subtext at play here) and it has a young Jane Krakowski making a cameo as a babysitter early on, what more could you want to go with your sex in a basin, pets in a pot and shower curtains that you’ll always check from now on?!

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