Adrian Lyne directed 9 ½ Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal, Lolita, and Unfaithful. That is an auteur in action, and his concerns are very focused. Lyne appears obsessed with the upper middle class and their relationship to fucking.
Fatal Attraction is one of those films that managed to become a zeitgeist. Michael Douglas stars as Dan Gallagher, a lawyer who ends up sleeping with Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) one night, and then spends the weekend with her. They’re both careerists, but Alex is unmarried, and Dan has a wife (Anne Archer) and daughter. Their relationship terminates quickly, but Alex won’t go away, especially after she announces that she’s pregnant.
Told mostly from the male point of view, Fatal Attraction does build Alex as a credible character, but Lyne makes films that feel like Douglas Sirk films done without the ironic detachment that makes them work. Dan’s character is the one who gets away with it, and though it’s a great starting point for a movie, there’s not much going on under the surface. It’s a thriller, with an evil woman as the antagonist, and though I don’t agree with the misogynist readings of this text, I think it’s very tellingly from a male-centric perspective. You could argue that Dan’s culpability is a driving force, but I don’t feel the film is engulfed in the moral grays of the material. Arguably Lyne matured with Unfaithful, but that film was not the smash hit that Fatal Attraction was. For some reason, this film – in the era of AIDS at its height – really tapped into something. It must have been the infidelity.
Paramount presents the film in widescreen (1.78:1) and in Dolby Digital 5.1 TrueHD. Extras include a thoughtful commentary by Lyne, “Forever Fatal: Remembering Fatal Attraction” (28 min.)which is a making of that gives Nicholas Meyer credit for rewriting the whole film. This is one of the rare times I’ve seen a rewriter given credit in more than a commentary. “Social Attraction” (10 min.) talks about the film’s crossover appeal, and how the film came to mean something in American culture (it did), while “Visual Attraction” (20 min.) gives the film’s technicians their credit. There’s rehearsal footage (7 min.) with an introduction by Lyne, the original ending w/ intro by Lyne (12 min.) that would have put Dan in the middle of it, and would have punished Dan a bit. There’s also the theatrical trailer.
I wasn’t crazy about the film, but I get why it works, even if it’s horribly dated. Dan and Alex are at once relatable, and yet fantasy figures. Indecent Proposal was also a huge hit, but it asks a question only people in movies could take seriously. A rich man (Robert Redford) offers a couple $1,000,000 for a night with Diana Murphy (Demi Moore). David (Woody Harrelson) and Diana have been going through some fiscal difficulties, and could really use the money. And so they take it, and it wrecks their marriage.
IP is based on a very good hook that doesn’t really have much of a story behind it. Perhaps it meant more in 1993, but in this struggling economy, you get the sense that most people would not have too much gumption about fucking for a nine digit payout (or maybe I’ve lived in Hollywood too long).
But I think why a film like this works is not because of the fantasy of a million dollars being a payout for some nookie, but the idea that it would wreck people. The fantasy is that people aren’t whores. Both David and Diana after being confronted with their decision become social workers, and both reject the money. This isn’t a film concerned with money, even though it is on the face of it, it’s concerned about integrity. Alas, the film is compromised by Redford’s character, as he doesn’t have the moral aloofness such a thing requires. I heard the screenwriter bitch that the role was rewritten for him to make the role sympathetic. And that’s what fucks the movie. Had he accepted that the character was playing a game, then it would have been something, but I he’s a sad-sack lover with a broken heart, then the pressures off and the film no longer becomes a critique of capitalism, which is really what the film should be. But what do I know, the film made over $100 million at the box office.
Paramount presents the film widescreen (1.78:1) and in TrueHD 5.1 Dolby Digital. Extras here are limited to a commentary by Lyne.
I like what Lyne’s after, but Unfaithful is – for me – where he really struck gold. There the fucking felt like more than a plot point, but something inside the film, a part of it. Here, these films are a perfect duet of how Hollywood thought about fucking and portraying sex in the post-AIDS era. Something to be afraid of; attractive but horrible. To suggest it’s disingenuous or ironic is only fitting.