Classic Films: Fatal Attraction

Classic Films: Fatal Attraction

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Glenn Close has made it clear that she was not happy with the denouement of Fatal Attraction. The film, she argued, has done a disservice to the image of those suffering with mental health issues, portraying as it does, a hyperbolic narrative of a near demonic, sex crazed lunatic who throws herself into full scale mania, after a one weekend encounter with the decidedly average family man, Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas).

Perhaps more specifically, it has perpetuated the mythology of the psychotic women who, so unbalanced by her own sexuality, is willing to set in motion actions that would potentially destroy her own existence, a mythology made more acutely unreasonable considering the fact that most stalkers are men, and most of their victims, women. Added to which, most women who are killed by former lovers or husbands, suffer a period of stalking beforehand, which makes the seriously arguable fact that it still isn’t properly dealt with as a crime, all the more pertinent. One wonders why there isn’t a film about a male bunny boiler, that sits so saliently in our pop cultural imaginations? Or rather, one doesn’t.

And she throws her whole, successful, attractive, witty and charming life away, simply after a few fumbles with a character predominately constructed out of prosaic vapidity: otherwise known as, The Most Boring Man Who Ever Lived. All apart from anything else, all these years on, this controversial pot boiler just seems pretty unrealistic, to the point of carnivalesque absurdity.

Mr Gallagher is a successful lawyer married to a beautiful, devoted house maintainer, Beth (Anne Archer), father to a six year old girl, and walker to a docile, old dog. His personality, his life, his family, yes, even the dog, are all pretty beige and benign. Devoid of any hard edges, darling Beth is even shot in hazy focus, her loveliness and the loveliness she represents going so far as to soften the film reel. Anyone wishing to tip poison onto this domestic bliss would surely be evil indeed.

However, bliss must dull the senses, because our mate Dan, is not especially resistant to outside temptation. Whilst Beth is away for the weekend he encounters Alex Forrest (Close), a seductive publishing agent seeking to produce a novel about a women’s affair with a married politician. The writing is very much on the wall. As a lawyer, Dan’s assistance is required to defend the novel against an accusation from a real life politician that the story is based on his own affair, but Dan, with soft shouldered nonchalance, agrees to take on the case.

As has been established, Dan has a nice family life, but all the backbone of boiled spaghetti; clearly disassociation is required when considering the destruction of lives lived ‘over there’. Even his own wife’s, as is evidenced by the fact that after his meeting with Alex, he quite casually goes with her for a romantic dinner, followed by a brief, intense, sexual affair. Later he trundles home, displaying all the ambivalence and guilt of a cat slaying a mouse. Until, of course, the phone rings, and Alex makes her first invasion into his cosy, marital home. Henceforth, their former jocular relationship, devolves into a stalking attack, with Alex being inflated into an obsessive Beelzebub gagging for a romantic clench hold onto this morally disengaged, ‘Every Man’.

What might have been a nuanced sociocultural drama about infidelity and moral responsibility turns into a horror story of operatic proportions. It is possible to enjoy the film in this vein; to delight in the unlikelihood of this previously successful women losing her rag after such a brief encounter, to such an unremarkable man. To scoff at the obnoxiousness of a narrative that permits his almost entire moral absolution, so enthused is the spectator to find the devil, not at home, but out amidst the deep blue sea. But really it is just a bad film, playing into some fairly weather worn anxieties about female desire and proliferating the conservative notion of the siren on the rocks. And perhaps therein lies the nub of this masochistic fantasy; what perverted bliss is it to be so unremarkable, yet to be so badly, so destructively desired?

Rae Story
Vegan & vegetarian food writing and recipes. Organic, biodynamic & permaculture movements, travel & ethical & alternative lifestyling. Side interests in film, literature, politics & feminism. https://inpermanentopposition.wordpress.com/

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