Sunday, January 13, 2013

80's Movie Re-Watch: Fatal Attraction

Remember how Fatal Attraction divided audiences when it first came out?

After watching it again tonight, I have to say, it remains a problematic film. I've never thought of Glenn Close's character as a villain, per se. I find it revealing that many people do think of Alex Forest (Close's character in the film) as a quintessential bad guy, famously inspiring audiences in the 80's to scream "Kill the bitch!" out loud in cinema theatres at the end of the film.

The truth is, Alex Forest is psychologically unstable, which creates all kinds of problems in terms of labelling her a villain. It also brings up some very troubling notions about how people view mental illness.

It made me wonder if contemporary audiences would still view Alex as the bad guy. Mental instability remains, on the whole, a touchy subject in mainstream media.

I also do not quite understand arguments that pose Michael Douglas' character, Dan Gallagher, as the married bastard who had a one-night stand and therefore deserves to be stalked, have acid thrown on his car, his child's bunny rabbit cooked, and almost having his wife knifed to death. It's a reactive argument that once again deflects part of the real problem: Alex Forest is psychologically unstable. Seemingly, audiences in 1987 found infidelity a much more palatable subject than mental illness.

Could the film have been made with the roles reversed? Probably not. Interestingly, when men are portrayed as obsessive and stalker-like, notions of mental illness are never bubbling far from the surface. And somehow, as audiences, we appear to be much more open to the idea of mentally unstable men, but perhaps that's due to the shot in the arm of convicted male psychopaths who exist in reality.

Fatal Attraction's original ending had Alex commit suicide and framing Dan for her murder. Test audiences, however, didn't appreciate this particular ending (surprise!), and despite Glen Close's vehement protests, an alternate ending was shot, which sees Dan's wife (played by Anne Archer) shoot Alex dead. In the stomach. Did I mention that Alex claimed to have fallen pregnant after her weekend affair with Dan? And Dan told his wife?

Like I said. It's a problematic film. But a good one.

Interesting facts: The highest-grossing film of 1987 worldwide; More than 20 directors passed on directing the movie; Alex Forrest suffers from an obsessive condition known as de Clérambault's syndrome (better known as Erotomania).

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