Seeing "Fatal Attraction" in my teens, it appeared that Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) was more problematic to Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) than his own nature that brought him into this mess. His biggest challenge was keeping Alex away from him and his family because she was bound to destroy him and all he lived for, such as his well-paying job as a lawyer, his house in the country, and the family he's made for himself.
Now, years later, I wonder what director Adrian Lyne was after when Dan decides in a restaurant with Alex to embark on a weekend fling with her, to use a kitchen counter and an elevator as launching pads for sexual ecstasy.
Lyne has always been fascinated with the machinations of men and women in relationships, what makes them want one thing or another, what they work through to get to certain points and, in the case of "Fatal Attraction," why men risk cheating when they have everything they could possibly want in their lives and careers.
Lyne and screenwriter James Dearden never push Dan to answer the question Alex asks him, why he's at a restaurant with her when his wife and child are away in the country, looking at what may be a new house and a new step in his life. To them, perhaps, they would express an opinion by giving Dan an answer and viewers would only debate if that opinion is correct. When Dan doesn't give a straight answer to Alex's question, debate is opened up with a single question: Why?
Is it complacency that drives Dan toward a sexual climax with Alex? He has a well-furnished New York apartment, a career in law that may see him as a partner in the firm he works for, a wife, a child, a dog, all the things that the ideal American life is presumed to be made up of. Then again, Alex is a life undiscovered by Dan, a little danger, a deviation from a commonplace path. That's what may excite him about her. His wife is away, he's got freedom he hasn't had in so long, and he intends to use it.
But then that pesky "Why" question hits again. Why isn't Dan thinking about his wife and daughter? Even when he later gives the standard line that a cheater gives, about not meaning to hurt anyone, he sure didn't think that way when he was in the act. Or is it just that passion comes from below and not in the head, cancelling out all rational thought and consciousness?
That's where you'll find the complex performances lying in wait in "Fatal Attraction." Michael Douglas' Dan is just standard attorney fare, and he plays it very well. Because he seems nondescript, with no reason to turn to him in the street when he passes, he becomes the question mark that pokes at us constantly during the film.
And Glenn Close, well, we find the reason she's one of the great actresses of the movies. Even as Alex becomes even more irrational, screaming, slashing her wrists, we sit there stock still, wondering exactly what's going on in her mind. There's an overwhelming feeling of wanting to open up her head, and look inside at her brain, in the hope that the answer is there, about why she continually stalks Dan. There's only one clue, of Alex's father dying of a heart attack right in front of her when she was young. Is that why she doesn't like men, especially Dan, to leave her? Or is it more?
Anne Archer, as Dan's wife Beth, is given just enough to establish her as a dedicated, good-hearted wife. She reads to their daughter, Ellen, is very much in love with Dan, and believes they will have a better life in the country than the city offers them. More time to relax, more room to live. She wants to make things easier for her and Dan together. Obviously, the main attraction is Close, but Archer does well with this role.
The remaining minutes towards the end feel false, surrendered to scenes far off from what has been established previously. But once Alex starts her mission to grab Dan for herself, there's no stopping what's to come, and it's undoubtedly Lyne and Dearden at work again, not giving us the satisfaction of seeing a couple trying to understand the reason for the man having an affair. We have to work through those reasons on our own, and the answers we come up with will be just as valid as any others.
"Fatal Attraction" can be placed securely as one of the classic films of the '80s and Alex Forrest is on par with other disturbed minds like Norman Bates in "Psycho." We don't know what drives them, but it's a relentless and incredible ride. That and all the other intentions of this film are why it earns a 7.5 out of 10. (R Aronsky)