|Fatal Attraction (Special Edition)|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 16 April 2002|
Featuring a very youthful-looking Michael Douglas as Dan Gallagher, an attorney for a publishing firm, the film begins subtly. Chapter 1 features the deep orange and black sky of evening just descending. A jet plows through the dawn sky, and car horns echo in the background as New York City sluggishly comes to life. Dogs bark in the neighborhood, tracking the stream of traffic that’s still headed home.
Chapter 2 provides a sudden increase in volume. Voices are understandable now as the viewer is pulled into the Gallagher household and introduced to three of the main characters. The feeling created by the audio track is that the viewer has just stepped unseen into the house. This bit establishes the voyeuristic view that is given throughout the rest of the film, making the audience a willing part of the suspense and violence waiting to be unleashed as the story progresses.
From a disjointed rush trying to get the family together, Dan and his wife Beth (Anne Archer) attend an office party. While at the party, Dan meets Alex Forrest (Close), an editor with the same publishing company that Dan represents. The first meeting, bungled by Dan's friend, doesn't go well, but the two meet again at the bar. The electricity between the two characters is palpable. As they talk, getting to know each other a little, the conversation of the party rolls in the background, never letting the audience forget where we are.
Beth asks to leave the party quickly because she has her own agenda the next morning. The viewer gets the impression that Dan would like to hang around a little to mingle, but he plays the good husband and leaves. Back home, Dan undresses for bed, obviously hoping for a romantic interlude with his wife. Instead, she asks him to walk the dog. By the time he returns, their little daughter Ellen has clambered up in bed with them. The audience sympathizes with Dan because he doesn't make a big deal of it. However, the viewer gets the idea this has been going on for awhile.
The next morning, a Saturday, Dan puts Beth and Ellen into the family station wagon. As the car pulls away, the sound echoing through the center and mains, and Dan is left alone. Chapter 2 rounds out with the Saturday morning meeting Dan has scheduled. Alex has replaced one of the editors connected with a book project Dan is trying to free up from a legal injunction. The stare they share, as the rest of the conversation dies down to background noise in the mains, with the central characters’ exchange in the center speaker, lets the audience know things are about to step beyond the point of no return.
The sounds of the rainstorm in Chapter 3 is housed in the main and center speakers. Taxis roll by, running from left main to center to right main. Alex comes to Dan’s rescue as he struggles with his umbrella. They end up in a restaurant, bonding over drinks, over a meal, and then over their heads as they choose to step into the extramarital affair. When Alex mentions that she stood up her date to be with Dan, the declaration is an ultimate rush and a dare. She closes the clandestine deal with the challenge, "Can you be discreet?"
Chapter 4 opens with a hot sex scene in the kitchen of Alex's apartment. At this point, the voyeuristic audience is totally drawn into the fantasy. Most guys and many women in the audience will be able to sympathize with Dan, understanding the dynamic behind the affair. But that's only the beginning of the problems yet to come.
Dance music hammers through the surround sound system later as Alex talks Dan into going clubbing. Another nice touch is the walk back to Alex's apartment after the dance. The couple passes trashcan fires where blue-collar laborers work to unload trucks, and the main speakers carry the sound of the flames while the center channel speaker carries the conversation between them. Later, in the elevator as Alex pushes Dan into another sexual encounter, the audience sees Dan standing overcome and fearful as Alex takes command of him. He's nearly seen by a man that walks in front of the elevator stopped between floors. The footsteps cross the surround system from left main to center to right main, mirroring the man's movements.
Chapter 5 shows Dan leaving Alex's apartment early the next morning. The surround sound system broadcasts the pigeons taking flight as he slips away.
Guilt comes in the form of a message from Beth on the answering machine, and the trained ear will hear the cassette tape rewinding to play the message, something most people don’t hear in these days of electronic chips and Call Notes.
Alex calls as well, and entices Dan into spending the day with her. As Dan takes the family dog into the park with Alex in Chapter 6, the voyeuristic audience realizes that the fun the two have together is probably similar to what Dan and Beth’s life used to be like before their daughter was born. In a playful moment, Dan fakes a heart attack and frightens Alex, then she tells him her father died like that. When Dan starts to feel incredibly guilty, as anyone in that situation would, Alex tells him she was just telling him a story, but her actions tell the viewer that she is quick and spiteful, capable of more than is perhaps first believed.
Later, over lunch, Alex asks Dan what he's doing there since he's married and thinks he's so lucky. The traffic noises in the background filter through the front speakers, lending an even more realistic feel to the movie. This story, this woman, could happen to any unsuspecting guy. After they make love, the viewer gets a nerve-wracking scene of Alex poised like a huge predatory animal over Dan while he's sleeping. When Dan gets ready to leave again, Alex goes ballistic on him, tearing at his clothing as she accuses him of taking advantage of her. Dan just says that the opportunity was there and they took it.
Before he can leave the house, though, Alex tries one more tack, coming up to him and apologizing. Dan accepts the apology, trying to get out of the situation with the least amount of fuss that he can. Then he discovers his face is covered with blood, and that Alex has cut her wrists.
Chapter 8 showcases a desperate conversation between Dan and Alex. While they talk in the center speaker, subway noises ratchet through the mains, again placing the viewer in the position of a voyeur. The suspenseful dance for power and control continues between Dan and Alex, finally spilling over to include a threat to Beth and Ellen. No matter what Dan does or attempts, Alex comes on relentlessly, bearing down on him and upping the ante till the film reaches its frenetic conclusion.
The special features included on the DVD were all done post-wrap. In fact, most of them were done almost 15 years later. Watching the actors, producers and director talk about the movie after that much time has elapsed is enlightening. The amount of information and perception about the filming experience is made even richer by the passage of time, giving everyone time to look at "Fatal Attraction" with new eyes.
The alternate ending provided on this DVD is interesting as well. Most viewers will probably agree with the test audiences of the film’s pre-release cut that the unused first ending flopped to a large degree. Although the ending was filmed beautifully, with an absolutely chilling performance by Glenn Close, it didn’t meet viewer expectations. Months after the movie had first wrapped, everyone was called back in to film a different ending (the one used in the theatrical release), and the featurettes discuss the difficulty in doing this.
"Fatal Attraction" is a must-have for anyone interested in filmmaking. Director Adrian Lyne had just come off shooting "9 1/2 Weeks" when he agreed to do this film. The style of “Fatal Attraction” is very different than that of “9 1/2 Weeks,” while still pushing all the tense character moments and the edgy sex. Fans of Michael Douglas, Glenn Close and Anne Archer will also want to add this one to the DVD collection because "Fatal Attraction" showcases some of their best work. The movie is one that shouldn't be missed by fans of suspense thrillers. With the message the movie sent out, with the social mores that the film explored, with the sexual significance relayed by the rise and fall of the action, "Fatal Attraction" still stands the test of time and continues to be mesmerizing.