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Monday, 2 May 2016

Dangerous liaison (Fatal Attraction, 1987)

What depths can a woman plunge to for love? I say depths because Alex Forest does not rise in love.

Or should I call it obsession? She plummets into the most obnoxious and deplorable levels of behaviour in order to get the due attention from the man she starts believing she has a right to. These are all her beliefs. On any given day, a mind with a rational thinking capacity would not like to give any benefit of doubt. But then as they say, 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'. And in Alex's case, like a psychotic woman scorned!
Adrian Lyne's psychological thriller, Fatal Attraction, the second most highest grossing film of 1987, has an undercurrent of eeriness from scene one itself. There is that constant hangover of danger lurking in the corner. A sense of foreboding, an air of premonition clouds every frame. Even the camera angles and the tints used suggest that things will soon turn awry in Dan Gallaghar's life. Dan (Michael Douglas is tailor-made for these roles) is a happily-married and successful attorney living in New York. His wife, Beth (Anne Archer) is a quintessential home-maker, taking care of the family. She's the loving and doting wife and mother who would not care to challenge her husband's fidelity. The equation is pretty safe and comfortable between Dan and Beth. They have a cute six-year-old girl, Beth. But nothing can be taken for granted...
While his family is away for the weekend, Dan gets up, close and personal with Alex Forest (Glenn Close), an editor for a publishing company. There's something about this woman. She's not like Beth. She has an enigmatic tinge to her personality. She talks softly, almost seductively, bores into your skin with her deep and intense gaze and has that flirtatious flavour in her laughter. As Dan says, she is definitely worth knowing. Dan chances upon Alex first in a party and starts chatting up. The two decide to share a drink on a rainy evening after work (the two meet at work too) and sparks instantly fly off. Alex puts the bait in front of the man and he grabs it without much ado. The two engage in a night of passionate yet impulsive sex. It's something that, you can make out from scene one itself, Dan has been missing for some time. Just carnal satisfaction, a release of his pent-up libido. And why must a man feel so when he's into a loving relationship with his wife? On that a bit later...
The two shake a leg in a salsa bar and Alex takes him home again. There is a scene here
that gives away Dan's state of mind. What he thoroughly enjoyed in a drunken stupor, is not so pleasant anymore. While Alex can't keep her hands off him even for a second, Dan is reluctant to fan the fire between the two. In the elevator Dan is jittery about getting caught  and keeps a close watch when the night guard is on the prowl. He knows that what is happening isn't right. The watchman is almost like his own conscience right now. The scene also sets the tone of how Dan will start changing his stance towards Alex. 
While Dan treats the weekend like an 'opportunity' Alex is not willing to let go. She insists Dan spend another day with her. Even though it is unplanned and Dan starts feeling a tad nauseated by the attention he's getting, he gives in. He of course, thinks it will pacify Alex for good. But no mister, Alex belongs to the psychotic breed. She starts revealing her true colours the moment Dan has to leave to get on with his life...
Dan's family returns and he gets busy with them, work and friends. He does promise to call Alex sometime but Alex craves for constant attention. She's breathing down his neck now. There's danger lurking around and Dan senses that. But he's too much of a gentleman to fob off Alex the wrong way, lest she is emotionally hurt. After all it was never his attention to use her. They both got into the same bed because they both wanted it. They both were consenting adults. But while Dan moved on with is life Alex refused to let go. She starts getting unreasonable to the point of getting dangerous and crazy. Things suddenly start getting out of Dan's hands. His family, work and peace is in jeopardy because of one woman who wants him too much...
Revealing more about Alex's actions and Dan's reactions will spoil the fun. Because that's how the movie is created. Every scene has that 'edge-of-your-seat' quality to it because you don't know what's coming next. Sharp twists, effective background score and an insidious sense of danger tightens the plot as it moves forward. The grey tone retained throughout the films tends to suggest that characters here are grey. They are human. It's loneliness and frustration that's crippling Alex. She has a demented streak in her from the very beginning. Dan and his charms have just fanned it. While she starts out as a confident and sexy woman who is sure of herself, a raw emotion gets the better of her sense of reasoning. In fact, Alex is an attractive person but when the wicked streak hits her she looks scary too. Her eyes reflect the storm in her mind. Ego, desperation and desolation get the better of her in a manner that she is ready to go to the most heinous depths of depravity and destruction. Just to get the man she loves. You can sense her heartache when she pleads with Dan saying, "I can never hurt you Dan, I love you!"  That probably justifies her ridiculous actions. 
Now coming to the why Dan falters in judgement. Why would a man sleep around with
some one else when he loves his wife dearly? Lyne prepares the ground for that right from scene one. Dan and Beth are husband-wife. They are too comfortable with each other, something that's a given in a healthy marriage. Wit domesticity, the sparks have dimmed, the sensuality has evaporated and the sex is not crackling anymore. It's just something that perhaps happens occasionally. Both Dan and Beth are semi-dressed when we are introduced to them. This only means that show of skin by each other is not fancy or exciting for them anymore. They have to work at surprising each other. And with a child that could become a task. With time the emotional succour becomes primary in a marriage. And perhaps that was what was ailing Dan and Beth's relationship. The lack of sexual kick. In fact, it is after he enjoys a racy night with Alex does he start missing Beth even more. He wants that physical connect again with Beth. Interesting, right?
Beth is pretty but she doesn't try to be sexy or attractive for her husband anymore. Well of course, she has nothing to prove here. She's a confident and stable woman who knows that she's a woman of the house. Most imporantly, she's secure in her relationship, something that Alex is not. 
When Dan sleeps with Alex, it's just letting out that pent up carnal desire that perhaps any man has. He's not emotionally connected with Alex. He wouldn't share is thoughts and stories with her. She's merely an acquaintance who gives him the kick one night. And he is repentant after that. He incessantly feels the pressure and shows it. He keeps pointing it out to Alex that they got into bed because they both wanted to and no strings were supposed to be attached here. After all she was an adult too. He's baffled by the fact that how can a woman who was confident, sexy, smart and forthcoming about her desire and passion can become an irrational and stubborn stalker. A night of indiscretion boomerangs into a mountain full of worries. Dan, in a helpless position, tells all to his friend, that he should not have done what he did. But then, to err is human...
It's a gripping piece of work by Lyne. While everyone does a good job, the screenplay is strengthened by Douglas and Close. They are so good at what they are supposed to do; and live the characters almost. You can sense the physical tension and chemistry between Dan and Close every time they face each other. And that's what makes the story chilling. There's no overt histrionics and drama, except for the occasional outburst of the insane lover in Alex. The two talk with their eyes and expressions. There is a scene where Alex pays a surprise visit to Dan's apartment and catches him unawares. The moment he senses her presences on hearing that smooth calm voice, he's scared and nervous. Angry yet helpless. He feels like smashing her head against the wall for being so cheeky and says as much with his cold stare when Beth introduces both of them. Alex tries to be smart and sassy with her quips. Her eyes tell him, "See I told you, you can never hide from me. I'll get you hook or by crook!" Nothing's said but so much transpires between Dan and the 'other girl' in those silent gazes. It's spine-chilling... and yes, thoroughly exciting!


  1. Can you believe it, I've never watched this one, though of course I've heard of it? Sounds interesting - I must give this a try. Thanks for the review, Sharmi.

    1. It's really good Madhu. One of Adrian Lyne'e better works. I didn't think much of Unfaithful you know. This one has Glenn Close. She will keep you hooked!

  2. I remember the bunny boiling scene in this film. :) Hated Glenn Close, thought Michael Douglas was an idiot, and by the end of the film, was closing all windows and doors to make sure no one was going to come in. Thankfully, I didn't have a pet rabbit. Nor a unhinged lover. :)

    1. See that means the movie did have its effect on you. Means it was good!! :)

  3. Haven't watched it (as i haven't most of em), but nice writing. Welcome back to the world of films :)

  4. Awesome work.Just wanted to drop a comment and say I am new to your blog and really like what I am reading.Thanks for the share

  5. What you're saying is completely true. I know that everybody must say the same thing, but I just think that you put it in a way that everyone can understand. I'm sure you'll reach so many people with what you've got to say.