Fatal Attraction (1987)


Starring: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer

Director: Adrian Lyne

Summary: A married man’s weekend fling comes back to haunt him when she begins to stalk him and his family

Other Nominations: Director, Actress (Close), Supporting Actress (Archer), Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing

A sleazy thriller is really not the kind of movie that you would expect to get nominated for four of the five major Oscar categories. First for the good: Close is believable all across the spectrum, as someone who can outwardly to have no mental issues in most situations and as someone who has a severe personality disorder that both escalates and de-escalates emotionally in realistic fashion. Her performance is excellent even if her character has no definable personality beyond her mental disorder. Purely as a thriller, it’s very effective, building great tension throughout that simmers, then boils and finally explodes over the course of the film. It’s never dull and will definitely hold your interest for its runtime.

However, the movie has a fundamental problem: how it treats Douglas’ character. Douglas is our main protagonist and we’re supposed to sympathize with him after he 1) has an affair when there were no marital problems whatsoever and he has a child, he did it just because he could, 2) took up Close’s offer of spending a second day together and making it more than just a simple one night stand, 3) got her pregnant (and breaks into her apartment in an effort to confirm it), 4) feels little remorse for any of his actions and 5) hides all this from his wife until he’s forced to. He’s pretty reprehensible, yet the movie doesn’t paint him in all that negative of a light and in fact feels like a movie about how horrible of a situation this is for him. To show just how important it is that the story’s being told from Douglas’ point of view, imagine if this story was told from the perspective of Douglas’ wife instead: she has what she thinks is a stable and loving marriage, then her home gets been broken into and the lives of her and her child have been put into grave danger because her husband cheated on her out of nowhere one weekend and now that woman is out to get her and her loved ones; it’s an identical plot, yet in this version, Douglas’ character would be the co-villain. I will give it credit though, the ending does help to redeem it a bit, but it’s too little, too late in my opinion.

This is a hard movie for me to rate, because it works really well as a thriller and Close gives a great performance, yet there are some major under-the-surface problems. Regardless, I’m still shocked at the critical accolades it received for a number of reasons.

Rating: C+


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