I've never seen Fatal Attraction, but today, I was half tempted to rent it so I could make a comparison. However, I chose not to. For those of you that have seen it, do you recommend it? Or would it just tick me off because of how fond I am of Misty?
I saw Fatal Attraction
when it came out in '87 but it had been so long that I didn't remember it at all, so I rented it to compare it to Misty
for this discussion. I'd heard nothing but negatives about it here on the board and I wasn't expecting much, so I was surprised to find that it is a pretty good film, worth viewing and interesting to compare to Misty
. I'm going to post some spoilers, so if anyone plans on seeing it and doesn't want to read anything about the film... stop now.
Think back to the 1980's and what was considered "in" at the time. It was "hip to be square"... or rather, very rich. And the cool place to be was no longer Haight Ashbury, but the financial capital of the world, New York City. Success was measured in dollars and how beautiful your wife and house were. "Yuppies" replaced "hippies", Volvos and mini vans replaced sports cars, women were not only "working hard for their money", but they were wearing suits and running businesses. When you think of the massive cultural changes between '71 and '87, the differences between Fatal Attraction
and Play Misty for Me
fall into place.
Instead of a hip, west-coast DJ, we now have succesful east-coast attorney Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas). He's married to an absolutely beautiful wife, has a child, a dog, and drives a.... (you guessed it) Volvo. One of the first things we learn about the Gallaghers is that they're looking to buy a home in the country. It's the picture perfect '80's life. In this way, Dave and Dan aren't that much different, they're just the epitome of the hip and successful male of their generation.
Dan's wife, Beth (Anne Archer) is beautiful, loving, demure, soft-spoken, casually elegant, intelligent, patient and understanding... and always backlit or soft-filtered.
She's this film's Tobie. Only she's married to the man she loves. This is one of main variations in the two stories.
Alex Forest (Glenn Close), is an attractive, but not beautiful; bold, but not slutty... career woman who knows what she wants and goes for it. She's this film's Evelyn. (In Misty
, we never know if Evelyn is employed, but she lives alone... it's possible she works, but we just don't know for sure.)
We meet Alex just as Dan meets her, never knowing anything about her past or where she's from. Although Dan is upfront with Alex, letting her know he's married right from the beginning, she nonetheless comes on strong and presses for an affair. Dan, thinking it will be an easy, one-night-stand... goes back to her place, has sex with her in every room... and leaves in the morning. This doesn't go over well with Alex. She calls him, wanting him to come back and spend more time with her, he tries to tell her that it was over between them, but finds himself being cajoled back. Their affair continues for another day, but this time when Dan tries to leave, Alex won't allow it. She tries to stop him, but when he persists, she slashes her wrists and he stays to help her.
And the story continues... Dan tries to convince Alex that they don't have a relationship, Alex insists that she can't be used and discarded. She tells Dan she's pregnant and that she's going to have the baby. He wants nothing to do with it. She starts stalking him, calling him at work and at home. Her mental state deteriorates as she becomes more and more obsessed with Dan... she becomes more angry and more hostile... eventually trashing his car with battery acid, and spying on him and his family through the window of their house in the country.
Does all this sound familiar? It should. It's an hour and a half into the film, and so far, it's almost the same story as Play Misty for Me
(one added detail... the pregnancy). But now, Fatal Attraction
starts to change direction. Up until now, it was a very good thriller... it's about to turn into a horror film.
Alex, in a rage after seeing how happy Dan and Beth are, boils their daughter's bunny and kidnaps their daughter for an afternoon of roller-coaster riding. Beth, half mad from worry, crashes the car while searching for her daughter and winds up in the hospital. When Dan finds out about all this, he breaks into Alex's apartment and nearly kills her in his rage.
When Beth comes home from the hospital, Alex shows up just as she's about to take a bath... butcher knife in hand. They fight and Dan arrives in time to throw Alex in the bathtub and strangle her to death under the water. He kills her and as he's getting up from the tub, in true horror fashion, Alex pops back up, knife still in hand... screaming like a banshee. She's about to kill Dan when Beth appears in the doorway with a gun... and cooly shoots Alex dead. This time, she stays dead.
The last half hour of this film was so Hollywood-overdone that it takes away from the beautifully crafted, realistic and harrowingly effective psychological thriller that the film had been. But similar to Misty
, in the end the "villain" is slain and the "lovers" can live happily ever after, if they choose to. I can see where a plagiarism suit could have been won if Eastwood had pressed for one... there were so few differences between the two films.Fatal Attraction
originally had a different ending which was offered on the DVD, and I felt it was better than the "Hollywood" ending, but test audiences didn't like it so they came back nearly 8 months later and shot the bathroom scene. In the original ending, Alex commits suicide in the same fashion as the geisha in Madame Butterfly
(the opera itself is a part of the storyline in Fatal Attraction
and interestingly is even mentioned in Play Misty for Me
by Evelyn). Dan's fingerprints are on the knife (he had wrestled it out of Alex's hand in a previous scene) and he is arrested for Alex's "murder." Beth finds evidence to clear him, and we're left with an open ending, but with the hope that all will be well. It was a more plausible ending, but it didn't contain the same thrill factor that most audiences were wanting... so to hell with realism, they decided to make the audience happy.
Overall, I liked both films. I felt Fatal Attraction
, was a good, well-written character-based drama that features some good performances. Although I thought the film was horribly compromised in the last half hour, most of it was very well done and Glenn Close was excellent in her role. I thought Anne Archer (who received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress) was good, but that her character was maybe TOO good to be true. (If there's a woman that perfect anywhere in the world, I want to meet her.) Michael Douglas did a decent job with his role, but I never was particularly impressed with his performance. As for the sex scenes... (I've heard this film called "trashy" "smutty", etc.) they didn't bother me at all. They served a purpose... to let us see what kind of relationship Alex and Dan had... no romance, no love ... just raw, passionate, no-holds-barred sex. I felt it was important enough to understanding Alex and Dan's relationship that it didn't seem gratuitous. However, I can understand that some would be offended by it.
I liked Play Misty for Me
better than Fatal Attraction
. I thought Jessica Walter was every bit as brilliant as Glenn Close, but I enjoyed Eastwood's performance more than Douglas's (I'm sure that's no surprise) and I thought that overall Misty
was more realistic.
It's a shame that Misty
didn't receive the attention that Fatal Attraction
received. So many people credit FA
as the original film that started many copycat films such as Disclosure
and Basic Instinct
, but whoever says that obviously hadn't seen the true original.
On one of the documentaries, Fatal Attraction
producer Sherry Lansing said that they had shopped that script to about 16 studios and no one wanted to see a film about this subject matter. It's amazing how wrong those studios were as it was one of the biggest films of the entire decade.
Maybe Eastwood was just ahead of his time...