[Editor’s Note: Elements of this piece appeared in a review for an earlier release of this film–RW]
Few directors have made a commercially successful career out of the erotic thriller. Fewer still have got critical raves for their work along the way. English director/screenwriter/producer Adrian Lyne is widely known and respected for films that deal with sexually charged characters and themes. His films are almost never strictly romantic; there is usually some sort of psychological or physical damage done to one of the main characters in each of his films.
1987’s Fatal Attraction stands as Lyne’s biggest success; the film grossed $320,145,693 worldwide and garnered six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Fatal Attraction has everything one might expect from an Adrian Lyne film: sex, lust and betrayal with a psychological twist. When I first saw this film about fifteen years ago, it blew me away; I found myself on the edge of my seat in anticipation. However, as the years have gone by, my appreciation for Fatal Attraction has cooled considerably. After watching the film on Blu-ray, Fatal Attraction is still well worth watching but there’s nothing particularly special about it. The acting is first-rate but its nonchalant plot development and its completely unrealistic finale, keep Fatal Attraction from being a truly great film.
Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is a reasonably happily married New York lawyer. Working a case with a publishing house regarding a novel that may find itself at the center of a lawsuit, he meets Editor Alex Forrest (Glenn Close). It just so happens that Dan’s wife Beth (Anne Archer), is out of town for the weekend. Because New York is experiencing a torrential rainstorm, Dan and Alex end up having drinks and dinner at a restaurant that quickly leads to a passionate encounter. It’s appears the encounter is a mutually agreed upon one-night stand between two consenting adults. It soon becomes clear that Alex had other plans, when Dan attempts to leave and resume his life with his wife and daughter. Alex begins stalking Dan, her aggressive pursuit becoming more serious as time goes on, leading Dan to fear every ring of the phone and knock on the door while doing all he can to convince Alex to leave him and his family alone.
After watching Fatal Attraction several times, it struck me that like The Sixth Sense, it’s a movie that’s always going to get the best reaction the first time a viewer sees it. The nonchalant attitude toward Dan and Alex’s affair doesn’t prepare the viewer for the craziness and violence to come. Adrian Lyne plays the tryst perfectly within the context of the story; it seems like a meaningless event on the road to something more important in the story. As Lyne had done in his previous film 9 ½ Weeks, he manages to give the sex scenes an animalistic, purely sexual feel; leading the audience to believe that neither character has any interest in taking the relationship to a deeper emotional level.
Despite the predictable storyline, Fatal Attraction maintains an unsettling tone throughout, due in large part to Glenn Close. Her portrayal of Alex Forrest, borderline personality and all, keeps viewers watching her every move. Wisely, Close never overplays her hand and keeps all of her characters psychotic and obsessive tendencies in check in the process of seducing Dan but unleashes a furious assault once he announces he must leave her simply to go to work. Her anger slowly turns her into an obsessive stalker that further morphs into a jealous rage. Lyne effectively captures the tone on both sides of the affair; a lingering shot of Alex as she sits on the floor, mascara running down her face, blankly staring into the distance as she flips a light on and off, perhaps symbolizes the last few flickers of sanity fading away inside of her. On the other side, Lyne uses everyday occurrences to great effect to demonstrate the fear and anger building inside Dan. The ringing of a telephone becomes a potential forerunner of dread that may reveal the secret and tear his family apart.
While the story isn’t everything it could have been Glenn Close and Adrian Lyne do deserve praise for their work on Fatal Attraction. Close’s wonderful acting and Lyne’s much talked about visual style make up for some of the obvious story weaknesses of the film. In the final analysis, Fatal Attraction was one of the biggest hits of the 1980’s and became a pop culture phenomenon.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p presentation taken from a new 4K transfer is a noticeable improvement over the previous Blu-ray release. The image is sharp, with Just a couple of minor instances of softness. There is no shimmering or edge haloes evident. Grain looks natural, and no real print flaws are evident. The subdued color palette is well rendered. Brighter colors, such as red blood, are appropriately brighter. Blacks are dark and convincing, while shadows are appropriately dense.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack serves the film well. Music and ambient sounds show a nice sense of depth. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout. The track opens up nicely to create a fairly enjoyable listening experience.
English, English SDH, and French subtitles are included.
A mix of old and new extras are available. Three featurettes from the previous Blu-ray release have been dropped:
- Audio Commentary with Director Adrian Lynne: Lyne serves up a dry but informative track, speaking on the casting, the themes of the film and the way it is played by the characters, shooting the love scenes, and more.
- NEW! Filmmaker Focus (HD, 7:43) Director Adrian Lyne looks back at the film.
- Rehearsal Footage (HD, 7:09) Footage of Michael Douglas rehearsing with Glenn Close and Anne Archer rehearsing with an actor off screen.
- Alternate Ending (HD, 12:04) I liked this ending better!
Fatal Attraction (Paramount Presents Edition) (1987)
Movie title: Fatal Attraction
Duration: 119 min
Director(s): Adrian Lyne
Actor(s): Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer, Fred Gwynne , Ellen Hamilton Latzen , Mike Nussbaum
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Drama, Erotic , Thriller