Warning- there’s going to be spoilers throughout.
Dan X (Michael Douglas) is a happily married lawyer who nevertheless has a dirty weekend with publisher Alex Forrest (Glenn Close). He tells Alex that it’s over but the original bunny-boiler won’t take ‘no’ for an answer…
Director Adrian Lyne goes for base fear and desire- as with Indecent Proposal, it taps into the audience’s morbid curiosity as to whether they can indulge a vice and get away with it. Thankfully Dan cannot have his cake and eat it and whilst the film does show Alex as being a hysterical psychopath, Dan hardly gets away scot-free.
Whether it’s Michael Douglas’ performance- Dan is very seedy and even when he tends to Alex’s wounds, he is never a sympathetic character- or the writing, Dan is surely psychopathic. He feels zero remorse in stopping the affair, carelessly telling Alex that if he wasn’t married, they might be together; insists Alex has an abortion; beats her up when she’s pregnant and then brutally murders her.
Glenn Close does gain some initial sympathy for Alex, showing her to be deeply lonely. The use of music from Madame Butterfly cleverly highlights how she snatches at any perceived connection with Dan. Unfortunately the plot demands that Alex is irredeemable and dangerous but Close does what she can to mitigate that.
Fatal Attraction is one of the most famous erotic thrillers but one weakness of the film is that once the eroticism is gone and we’re down to the standard thriller genre, there is a lull until the spectacular finale. Writer James Dearden doesn’t successfully fill the gap to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
It may be a misogynistic film, a misogyny which Gone Girl shamelessly capitalises on, but it’s a talking point- and at least Fatal Attraction has the excuse that it’s almost thirty years old.