One of the oldest and most sacred formalize social interactions is marriage. Throughout time it has been one of the dominate cornerstone to society and personal relationships. Although it is frequent viewed as a lasting commitment between a man and a woman in recent years even this age old definition has be openly challenged. Current over half of all marriages end in divorce. It is largely held as true that the dominate reason for all these breakup is adultery. It is not as if this is something new; adultery made it into the Ten Commandments a very long time ago. Since marriage is such an integral element in the human experience it is only natural that it has been the foundation on mote stories in literature and film then it would be possible to count. With human nature what it is the vast majority of plots concerning marriage involves adultery rather than the happily ever after unions. There is also little doubt that one of the best known of this genre is ‘Fatal Attraction’. Usually the aftermath of a married man having a one night stand is portrayed unpleasantly with an angry wife and frequently financial turbulence of divorce. This movie takes a far different tack. Here the straying hubby finds himself stalked by an obsessed psychopath. Rather than a run of the mill romance this movie is a taut psychological thriller that still holds up as a classic. There is an urban legend that this movie was responsible for a drastic decline in men seeking extramarital affairs but I have never come across actual substantiation of this claim. In any case this film did highlight the personal safety aspect of fidelity and made the phrase ‘I will not be ignored’ part of the popular lexicon. It was made on a modest budget of about $14 million with a very lucrative return of over $160 globally. This is the rare film that makes a ton of money, strikes a chord with the audience and runs through the award season; in this case with s half dozen Oscar nods. The film has been available on DVD for years not but it has just been included in Paramount’s latest round of classic releases making it possible to watch this movie better than ever.
The screenplay was written by James Dearden based upon a short Diversion he wrote and directed some seven years before this opus. Here Dearden creates a well crafted story that provides solid entertainment. There is a slight caveat as the third act moves from a thriller to more of a typical slash and dash type horror flicks. One of the plot devices that helps this story work as well as it does is the fact that the husband in question, Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) couldn’t resist what he thought would be an isolated night of lust. There is some attempt to mitigate the infidelity but there is no moral high ground for Dan. Dearden shows admirable skill in writing Dan in such s fashion that no excuses are offered for his actions yet he is able to retain more than a modicum of sympathy from the audience. This is vital to make the third act work out in a satisfying way. Unless we can cheer Dan on as he is being brutally stalked by Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) the conclusion would utterly fail. Sure he brought it on himself but nobody deserves a psycho compulsive after them and their families.
Dan is a lawyer with a rising career, beautiful wife, Beth (Anne Archer) and an adorable daughter, Ellen (Ellen Hamilton Latzen). Anyone observing this life would have to admit that Dan had it all. One weekend when his family was out of town Dan meets Alex. The two hit it off and before you know it the wind up in bed. For Dan it was nothing more than a one night stand but for Alex Dan is the soul mate she has been waiting for. Alex herself was a very successful business woman who was extremely used to always getting what she sets her eyes on.; Alex has very little experience hearing the word ‘no’. While some feminist applauded the fate of a man cheating on his wife other found some umbrage with the portrayal of a strong, successful woman as a homicidal psychotic. What does help to mitigate this is a nice twist provided in the conclusion.
In a film like this a director I needed who understand how to present morally ambiguous and sexually intense material. Fortunately such a director was located, Adrian Lyne. He made his career pushing what some would call the limits of good taste with films challenge our cultural vie of sexual relationships. He took on pedophilia with his version of ‘Lolita’, sexual politics and marriage with ‘Indecent Proposa’ and food as a sexual aide with ‘Nine 1/2 Weeks. Say what you might about him but Mr. Lyne sure knows how to tell a compelling story.
The new Blu-ray release is the best possible way to enjoy this cautionary tale. The 1080p video wipes away the years and breathes new life to the movie with a very good and well balanced color palette. There are no signs of artifacts providing better than was originally in the theater. Likewise the new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio reveals details I have never encountered in this flick. The extras are direct ports from the previous DVD release but hold up as worthwhile, enjoyable and informative. This is one of the decade’s defining films and should be included in any serious collections
Commentary By Director Adrian Lyne