The other night my husband and I watched Fatal Attraction the ultimate cautionary tale for cheating husbands. He posted the fact on facebook and jokingly questioned whether it was a bad idea to watch it with your spouse. It was fine. Though it is difficult not to turn all men into Dan (Michael Douglas' character) when you watch him tromp all over his perfect life.
My husband kept catching me staring holes into him even though he is the best man I know and he is as loyal as they come. He also couldn't help but squirm and tremble a little whenever Alex "the other woman" showed up on screen. She may as well have been wearing the mask from Scream.
Anne Archer as Beth (Dan's bride) is the quintessential wife; beautiful, sexy, fun, trusting. For goodness sake, I'd marry her. The young actress Ellen Hamilton Latzen who plays the daughter Ellen in the film could teach a master class on non-precocious child acting. It's impossible not to buy into their family unit and take it personally that Dan can't keep his pee pee in his pants where it belongs.
I have seen Fatal Attraction at least fifty times. It's right up there with Goodfellas as one of those movies that it's impossible to ignore if you come across it while channel surfing. In college, my friends and I wore the tape out because as theatre majors we were convinced Glenn Close's performance as Alex was the most brilliant of all time. We analyzed her every move. Her performance was so distinct and detailed that we'd rewind scenes and marvel at how her expressions changed and contemplated her subtext. We believed from an acting perspective that Glenn Close's Alex was not evil or psychotic as many men determined but fragile and vulnerable. For years, Glenn Close has defended the character as misunderstood. We agreed.
A great deal has changed since I use to watch Fatal Attraction with my theatre pals. The biggest changes have come in the names of Bill, Thomas, Nora, Audra, and Drea; my husband and kids. This time, when I watched Fatal Attraction it wasn't about Glenn Close's performance at all. I was a Mother and a wife and I was no longer taking Dan and Alex's behavior personally on an intellectual level. This time, everything that happened to Beth (Anne Archer) was happening to me.
There's a scene where Dan watches his daughter practice her lines for the school play. The look of love on his face and the tender way he hugs her when she is finished reminded me of moments Bill has had with the girls. I understood the sweet look on Beth's face as she observed the exchange. There is nothing like seeing your husband get all gooey with his babies. My heart grows three sizes just thinking about it.
Another moment that resonates is when Dan watches Beth get dressed for a dinner party. He sits on the bed and watches her in the mirror with delight as she puts on lotion. She smiles, part shy, part reveling in her husband's attention. Bill has admired me like that whether I am wearing sweatpants or an evening gown. I know exactly how Beth feels.
But in another scene Alex kidnaps Ellen and takes her to an amusement park. They ride a roller coaster while poor Beth drives around like a crazy woman trying to find them. She ends up in an accident and has to wear a giant pathetic looking cast on her arm for the rest of the movie.
I started having an anxiety attack and the anger I felt toward Alex was palpable. How dare she take my--I mean poor Beth's child and put her on a roller coaster? The very idea of someone having the audacity to take my child and put them in peril illicited murderous thoughts in my mind. I don't mean murderous in a metaphoric way either. I. Mean. Murder.
My husband seemed to sense my stress or he was eager to get to the showdown between Alex and Beth in the last scene because he fast forwarded through that section. I was grateful. I don't think I would've handled watching it all that well.
When Dan confesses to Beth about the affair she gets on the phone and tells Alex, "If you ever come near my family again, I'll kill you," and hangs up. What a a bad-ass. She speaks for all Mothers to anyone who dares to f*** with our families. I hoot-hoot hooted, applauded, and fist pumped my support.
Alex was no longer the vulnerable and fragile victim defended by Glenn Close and some obsessed theater students. She was a woman who knew a man was married and slept with him anyway. It takes two to tango. The man doesn't have to do it and neither does the woman.
Sorry Glenn, you're on your own. Still a good movie, though.