Standard Issue writers are revisiting a film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. As news of a TV series emerges, Ruth Bratt finds out if time has made Adrian Lyne’s 1987 psychological thriller more palatable than boiled rabbit. WARNING: Contains spoilers.
What and why: Michael Douglas is Dan, who has a happy marriage to Beth (Anne Archer) but decides on a whim to have an affair with Alex (Glenn Close). When he calls it off she becomes dangerous, takes his daughter on a rollercoaster, boils her pet rabbit, then – SPOILER ALERT – tries to kill everyone but they kill her first.
OK, full disclosure: I never liked Fatal Attraction. The first time I watched it I thought it was a pile of misogynistic wank, although I didn’t necessarily use the same vocabulary, because I was 11 and didn’t know the word misogyny.
Made in 1987 by the man who then gave us Indecent Proposal (1993) and Unfaithful (2002), Adrian Lyne is clearly a man with many issues surrounding sex, particularly women having sex. They can either be bought (or more accurately, their husbands can, because we all know a woman has to ask her husband’s permission to be paid to have sex with a creepy millionaire) or they go crazy after the event, or the men they have sex with go crazy.
But I thought, maybe I’m wrong. So many people like it; it’s canon; it’s iconic – give it another go. Also, I’ve always found Michael Douglas pretty charmless as an actor, but very charming and funny when being interviewed.
Rated or dated: This film is disgusting on so many levels and in so many ways. In the first five minutes we see casual racism against the Japanese (haha, they BOW! Pahaha!) and when the corporate menfolk make a joke about a man wearing a neck brace because of rough sex with his wife (“You should see her!”), their loving wives simply giggle coquettishly and say, “Oh, you guys…” I know, I know it was a different time back then, but if anything it shows how attitudes have barely changed in the intervening three decades.
The seeds are planted that all is not entirely well in the marriage because Beth has the temerity to ask Dan to take the dog for a walk when they get back from a party and then when he finally gets home, their daughter has climbed into bed with her.
Oh no, no sex for you tonight Dan; you’d better go and fuck a random woman you met at work who has already shown she’s a bit cuckoo because when your lardy married mate tried it on with her, she shot a dead-eyed look at him. What a bitch.
Yes, Glenn Close’s Alex is a successful businesswoman, but one whiff of cock and she’s suddenly a crazy lady cutting her wrists, boiling bunnies (thanks for providing the world with that insult, Lyne) and taking children on rollercoasters. And 36 is her last chance to be a mother and we all know that’s what women really want, because Hollywood keeps telling us so.
The men don’t come out of this well either. Dan is a manchild, who can’t put up an umbrella, gets cream cheese on his nose in meetings, and is so emasculated by being ignored by waiters that he has sex with a woman he barely knows without any appearance of moral compunction or thought. And he never admits that he might have some responsibility in all this: he sleeps with her; he gets his rocks off and thinks that’s okay; he cheats on his wife – but it’s all Glenn Close’s fault, because, well she’s a woman and she’s batshit.
He goes round to her flat after she’s taken his child on a rollercoaster, forces his way in, smashes her about a bit and chokes her until she’s nearly dead. Are we supposed to cheer this? Are we supposed to say, “Good for you, Dan. You’d do anything to protect your family.” Anything. Except not putting your dick into women other than your wife.
“Yes, Glenn Close’s Alex is a successful businesswoman, but one whiff of cock and she’s suddenly a crazy lady cutting her wrists, boiling bunnies and taking children on rollercoasters.”
After she recovers a bit from the choking, Alex goes at him with a knife. Good for you Alex, a man has just forced his way into your apartment and tried to kill you! Oh, hang on… no we don’t feel for you Alex, because we have to agree with Dan. Bad Alex. Let him go. Let him choke you. Learn your lesson.
They finally – SPOILER ALERT – kill Alex (Dan drowns her but of course she’s not dead, so Beth comes in and shoots her – cheers all round). And I think this is where I nearly vomited. In the final scenes of the film, after she’s been drowned and shot (god, she’s some sort of lady Rasputin), Dan shakes the hand of a male police officer in a ‘Phew, that was tough but at least the crazy bitch is dead. Thanks for not arresting my wife who did the actual killing. Women eh?’ way; Dan and Beth embrace and the camera pans to a picture of the family: Dan, Beth and their daughter in a happy smiling family hug.
Yes, this couple will do anything to save their family, because family is what it’s all about and that crazy lady would do anything to destroy it. That crazy pregnant lady. No, forget the pregnant bit, that doesn’t help. Because then she’d be trying to make a family. Argh, no, she was probably lying. The nuclear family – that’s what we want. And it doesn’t matter if we have an affair, as long as we protect the family. The affair wasn’t the problem, the crazy lady was, right? Right. And then the really dated 80s music kicks in.
I never rated it. But is it dated? The hairstyles: dated. The clothes: oh lord, why did we love batwing coats so much? Dated. The themes? No. Sadly not. Hollywood still spouts this bullshit all the time: the only good thing is family, as in man, woman and child/ren, and anything else is ‘other’ and therefore to be feared.
I’d like to think that now a woman with a clear mental health problem would be helped rather than killed, but I doubt it. I’d like to think that the only two women in a business meeting wouldn’t be the secretary taking notes and the ball-breaker who turns out to be insane, but I know that’s still the way women are portrayed.
The thing that annoyed me most, though, was after Dan’s been boffing Alex all day and night in lifts and up against sinks and the like, he goes home and his dog is looking a bit miffed because he’s been left in for about 18 hours. But there is no dog wee or shit in the apartment. Come on! That dog would have gone EVERYWHERE. It’s just so unrealistic…4990 Views
Ruth is an improviser, comedian, actor, writer and the short half of double act Trodd en Bratt. She is rapidly becoming a middle class cliche who likes to bake and knit. Ruth is in Showstopper! The Improvised Musical currently in Edinburgh and about to embark on a West End run. www.theshowstoppers.org