Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Femme Fatale

Fatal Attraction
Director: Adrian Lyne
Cast: Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, Anne Archer
Released: September 18, 1987

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to The Last Emperor)
Best Director - Adrian Lyne (lost to Bernardo Bertolucci for The Last Emperor)
Best Actress - Glenn Close (lost to Cher for Moonstruck)
Best Supporting Actress - Anne Archer (lost to Olympia Dukakis for Moonstruck)
Best Adapted Screenplay - James Dearden (lost to Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci for The Last Emperor)
Best Film Editing (lost to The Last Emperor)


There are a ton of movies out there about stalkers, but Fatal Attraction is probably the first one that comes to mind, especially when it deals with a scorned lover. I had never seen this film until now, but I was very familiar with it and knew about certain scenes (that poor bunny!), but other scenes I had no idea were coming. This movie is why it is a good idea not to cheat on your spouse/significant other! This is what could happen if you do! You might run into your very own Alex Forrest and that is a very, very bad thing.

The film makes it very clear that Alex Forrest (Glenn Close), the woman Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) has an affair with is the villain and she does some horrible, vile things and is clearly unstable and unhinged, BUT Dan is no saint himself. He has a pretty good thing going. He's a successful lawyer who lives in Manhattan with his beautiful and loving wife, Beth (Anne Archer), and as far as I can tell, there are no marital spats between them. They have a six-year-old daughter named Ellen. Not gonna lie - I thought she was a boy at first because she has very short hair and she never wears any barrettes or headbands in it and she never wears any girly outfits. I also thought they were calling her "Alan", but when they referred to their child as "her" and "she", then I realized the kid was a girl. Plus the fact that she's carrying a Cabbage Patch doll in an early scene - not that boys can't play with Cabbage Patch Dolls! She's also playing with My Little Ponies in a later scene which was my toy of choice back in the '80s, so of course I would notice them. You can definitely tell the decade of this movie just from the toys the little girl plays with! So anyway, Dan's life is pretty good, but he decides he's going to mess that all up by having an affair, because, why not?

He meets Alex at a party and he is the one to sidle up to her at the bar and initiate a conversation. She is an editor for a publishing company and they both find themselves at the same meeting the next afternoon. They end up going out for a drink afterwards when neither can hail a taxi. (This is also exactly how the affair in Unfaithful started, which is also directed by Adrian Lyne). Did I mention that Dan's wife and daughter are out of town? They're in the country looking at a house they're planning to buy. Alex asks Dan if he can be "discreet" and he says he can. She says they're both adults and they have a weekend affair. Dan makes it very clear that he is married and this is a one time thing (still doesn't make it right!) and the next morning when he returns to his apartment ( and his poor dog is waiting by the door to be let out), Alex calls him right after he's gotten off the phone with his wife and demands to know where he went. She wants him to come back over, but he says he has too much work and she tells him to come over to her place and work there (like he would get anything done!) He tells her he needs to walk his dog and she invites herself along because she "loves animals" (yeah, okay, bunny boiler!). We get a weird scene here where they're playing with the dog and Dan falls and pretends to have a heart attack and won't wake up when Alex goes over to him (which is a weird thing to do to someone who you've just met) and starts shaking him. He eventually sits up and starts laughing at the look on her face. This pisses her off, which is understandable, and she tells him that her father died of a heart attack right in front of her when she was a kid. Then she starts laughing and this time she's telling the lie and tells him her dad is alive and well. So the whole exchange was just very odd. And this is just the beginning of how unstable Alex is. In fact, that scene is nothing compared to what is to come!

Beth and Ellen were suppose to come home that afternoon, but Beth calls Dan to tell him they won't be home until the next morning, so this gives Dan a chance to spend the night with Alex again. There's a scene where Alex makes Dan spaghetti (and that boiling pot of water will come back later in the movie...believe me, I noticed it, which I'm sure was the intention for people to notice when they went back and watched it a second time). While they're eating, she asks him how long he's been married and if he has any kids and Dan answers the questions. Alex says, "Sounds good" and Dan agrees and says, "I'm lucky." Alex asks, "So what are you doing here?" which is a very valid question. If he even admits he's lucky to have the life he has, then WHY is he having this affair? He doesn't answer the question (probably because he doesn't even know why he's doing something so stupid), but when Alex tells him she'd like to see him again, he quickly tells her no, that it's not possible.

The next morning, he has to leave to get home before his wife and daughter return, but Alex begs him not to go. This is when we see just how unstable she is. She slits her wrists in an attempt to get him to stay. I had no idea this was coming, so it came as a shock to me, especially the way it is presented. She is very calm  and has her arms behind her back and when she starts kissing Dan and puts her hands on his face, we see she has slit her wrists the same time Dan does. Well, we actually see it first because he just thinks the blood smeared all over his face is water because he says, "Your hands are all wet", then freaks out when he sees her wrists are cut. Is he really that dumb he can't tell water from blood? Because I feel like I would be able to tell the difference! He helps bandage them up and makes her promise him that she'll see a doctor. That should have been his first warning bell that she was a bit unhinged and it did shake him up a little, but I still don't think he knows exactly what he's dealing with. When he returns home, he musses up the bed to look like he had slept in it.

Dan may be ready to forget about the affair and pretend it never happened, but Alex sure isn't! She keeps calling him at work, but he won't take her calls, so she starts calling him at home and always hanging up if Beth answered. There were a couple of lingering, menacing shots on the phone as it rang. Dan changes his home number, but do you think that's enough to keep the crazy away? Of course not! Alex will stop at nothing. One day after work, Dan comes home to find Alex in the living room talking to his wife. She is posing as someone who is interested in buying their apartment since they will be selling it once they move to the house in the country. Dan is giving Alex a very cold look as Beth introduces them and Alex even has the nerve to ask him, "Haven't we met somewhere before?" to which Dan tells her, no, they haven't. She insists they did meet at the party and tells him she never forgets a face. Beth doesn't know it, but she is giving away too much information to Alex, but Dan can't say anything without revealing just exactly how he knows Alex. Beth tells her the town they're moving to and gives Alex their number if she has any questions. There's a great stare down between Dan and Alex as Beth is writing down the number.

Alex announces to Dan that she is pregnant and that she plans to have the child. When Dan doesn't believe her, she tells him to call her her gynecologist which he does and it is confirmed Alex is indeed with child.

No matter what Dan does, he can't seem to escape from Alex's clutches. She pours acid on his car, ruining the engine; she makes him a tape where she just goes off on him; she spies on Dan and his happy family through the bushes at their new house. She clearly has issues! At first, it's just Dan she's going after (even though there's that scene where she pretends to be interested in the Gallagher's apartment), but then she starts going after the rest of his family...including the new family pet. This is probably the most famous scene in the film and the term "bunny boiler" was coined because of this film. I looked it up on my computer's dictionary, and, sure enough, it popped up. The definition for a bunny boiler is "a woman who acts vengefully after having been spurned by her lover." It even says the origin for this term is from the 1987 film, Fatal Attraction.

I was thinking the Gallaghers already had the rabbit when we meet them, but they don't. (Why would you have a pet rabbit in a Manhattan apartment, though, right?) It's not until after Beth and Ellen look at the house in the country when Ellen excitedly tells her dad that "there's even a place for rabbits." Even though she already has a dog, she wants a rabbit. He finally caves in and gets her one when they move to their new home. All I'm thinking is, Oh, you shouldn't have given her that rabbit. Only bad things can come from this. The family goes to the city for the weekend (and thank God they take their dog with them!) leaving the poor rabbit in its outside pen. (Although it wouldn't be safe even if it were indoors because clearly Alex breaks in). The scene is brilliantly and creepily shot. Beth comes in the house and hears something coming from the kitchen and sees a large pot boiling on the stove. This alone would set off alarm bells for me as someone was obviously in my home, plus they left the stove on which is a huge fire hazard. Despite this being the first time I've seen this movie, I was well aware of what was coming and I would bet those who first saw it thirty years ago knew what Beth was going to find under that lid. Audiences who watched this in 1987 had to know, right? Even before the shots that are interwoven with Ellen running to the rabbit cage and yelling and crying, "Whitey's gone!" (By the way, what an original name for a rabbit)! Poor Whitey. He never had a chance. I really hope they told their daughter that Whitey just "hopped away".

Understandably, Beth wants to call the police and this is when Dan has to come clean to her and tell her he knows who did this horrific act and this includes having to tell her he had an affair with the woman who came to look at their apartment that one day. Beth demands that he leave. He calls Alex to tell her that his wife knows about the affair and Alex doesn't believe him until Beth gets on the phone and tells her, "If you ever come near my family again, I'll kill you."

Alex obviously doesn't take Beth's threat seriously because she kidnaps Ellen. Now this was a scene I had no idea was coming. I soon figured out that Alex had picked up Ellen from school when Beth goes to pick her up and everybody is telling her that she already left. I think they need to have a talk with Ellen about not going anywhere with strangers! We never see how Alex obtains Ellen; I image she just told her she was a friend of her father's. She takes her to an amusement park where she buys her an ice cream cone and they ride a roller coaster and she drops her off at home, asking for a kiss on the cheek. While this is going on, Beth is frantically searching for her daughter and ends up in the hospital when she crashes her car because she isn't paying attention to the road. Eventually she forgives Dan and they reconcile.

The movie ends with Alex sneaking into their house and threatening Beth with a knife in the upstairs bathroom while Beth is getting a bath ready while Dan is downstairs. Beth is in front of the sink and has the medicine cabinet open and as soon as she shut it, I just knew that we would see Alex's reflection. The water is still running and is dripping down on the first floor, but Dan doesn't notice it. He also doesn't notice Beth's shrieks because she shrieks the same time the tea kettle starts whistling. When he hears a loud thud from the two women fighting, he runs upstairs where he attacks Alex and they have a struggle. She eventually lands in the bathtub and he holds her underwater until she stops moving. She's just laying underwater, presumably dead, while he's on the edge of the tub. And I'm thinking, Oh, God, she's going to pop up, isn't she? So I'm just clutching my blanket, trying to get ready for the jump scare (which I hate!) And sure enough she pops up out of the water with the knife ready to attack Dan, and sure enough, I shriek. Beth comes in at that moment with a gun, and as she had promised Alex during that phone call, she kills her by shooting her in the chest.

Some of you may know that this wasn't the original ending of the film. When they first screen tested the original ending, the audience wasn't happy with it so they scrapped it and went with the ending where Beth shoots and kills Alex. You can find the original ending on YouTube (just type in Fatal Attraction, alternate ending). I had heard about the original ending from podcasts before watching it and I thought it was a lot more ambiguous than it actually was. The police come to the Gallaghers' residence to inform Dan that Alex is dead and he is the number one suspect. He tells them that she was suicidal and was always threatening to kill herself, but they tell him they don't think someone would kill themselves by cutting their throat with a nine inch knife (they got a good point there...obviously they didn't know just how effing insane Alex was!) Dan's prints are all over the knife because it was the same one she used when she threatened him with it and he grabbed it from her. As the police take him into custody, he tells Beth to call his lawyer and when she's in his office looking for the number, she comes across the tape Alex made for Dan and plays it. It reveals that Alex will find a way to get back at Dan and she admits she will kill herself. So now Beth has evidence that her husband is clearly innocent. Now when I listened to a couple podcasts talking about this alternate ending, I was under the impression that we were suppose to wonder if Beth was going to exonerate her husband with this evidence. Which would be quite interesting, especially if we never saw them reconcile after the kidnapping incident. After all, he had an affair with this woman and because of that, her daughter was abducted, and, not to mention, this woman caused trauma in her daughter's life by taking away her beloved pet bunny. But I must have misunderstood these podcasts because it's very clear that Beth is upset while her husband is being taken away, crying and telling him, "I love you" and you know she is going to do everything in her power to free him. And once she has the cassette, she tells Ellen, "Come on, honey, we're going to go get Daddy", so obviously you know he's not going to prison. The alternate ending would have been MUCH more interesting if you didn't know what Beth was going to do with that cassette and if there was still tension between her and Dan. I also don't buy Alex committing suicide by slitting her own throat. I understand she did it so it would look like she was murdered, but....no. I felt like she was more the type to threaten suicide, but never actually go through with it. I don't really understand why the test audience were so upset by the original ending when Dan is going to be cleared of all charges, but I guess they thought it would be more satisfying if Beth killed Alex. I prefer the ending the way they have it now, but I could have done without the cheap jump scare.

This movie was the highest grossing film, worldwide, in 1987. And second highest grossing in the United States after Three Men and a Baby. If this film were made today, I doubt it would even crack the top twenty as it is neither a comic book movie or from a popular franchise.