It was supposed to be a one-night stand. A dalliance, that by some is viewed as harmless. Harmless to any long-lasting problems, harmless to the marriage in general. An adventure. A door that opens and closes, almost upon itself. Then again, some doors should not be opened because they cannot be closed again. This was 1987. The AIDS crisis gave us plenty to be concerned about. But I am getting ahead of myself in the story.
As “Fatal Attraction” begins, we are introduced to an idyllic setting. Dan, a lawyer, and his daughter, Ellen, are sitting together in the living room. The television is on. Dan is in a white button down shirt and Ellen is in one of his t-shirts. Mom is brushing her teeth in her own white tee. No one is wearing pants. Everything is white as far as the eye can see. Even the babysitter, when she shows up, is wearing white. The kid is adorable and so is the dog.
When the couple goes out for the evening to a business event, there is the usual moment where the husbands and wives split off for a short time to catch up before pairing off once more. There is a sighting of Alex, and a shared moment when Dan goes to the bar for drinks. So far so good, nothing menacing here. Alex is beautiful, charming, and intelligent. She is an editor with a publisher that Dan has as a client.
They meet again at a meeting the next day and afterward decide to duck out of the rain for a drink. They are colleagues, clearly attracted to one another. Just a drink right?
Dan: I don’t think having dinner is a crime.
Alex: Not yet.
Dan: Will it be?
Alex: I don’t know.
Dan: I definitely think it’s going to be up to you.
That’s the moment when the door got opened that could not be closed again. ‘No, Dan!’ I’m yelling at the screen. ‘Don’t leave it up to her!’ What’s at stake you ask, Dan? Your wife, your daughter, someone to give a shit when you come home at night, a grown daughter who still loves and cares for you in your old age. Yep, you just carried them all with you through that door.
But I am digressing from our focus here, our star bitch, the prowling lioness. Predatory? Probably. The aggressor? Yes and no. Plenty of lust and aggression to go around. Was she sick? A bit. Mentally unstable? Most assuredly.
But no one made her get into his bed any more than my early childhood made me eat an extra doughnut last night. She knew what she wanted the first night and laid the ground work. Like some femme fatale from 1948, Alex pursued him and wooed him, seducing him by touching all his buttons. Dan thought he was signing a contract for a one-night stand. Alex’s hand was covering the part about until-death-do-us-part.
Dan left that first day without saying goodbye, and Alex called him up. She convinced him he could work at her place while wifey was away, and he could even bring the dog. When he walked back in, he not only walked through that metaphorical door, he tore the damn door off its hinges, and threw it out the window.
I would toss out there that Dan wanted sex without consequences. He wanted to cheat without consequence. He seemed so comfortable with it, I was left wondering if he had done this before. Now now, before you write angry comments, understand I am not saying that Alex had no responsibility for her actions. She was no victim. She knew what she was doing and played it to the limit.
After a spaghetti dinner that couldn’t be beat and another romp in the sheets, it was time for Dan to go, to get back to work and life, with a court case looming and his wife expecting him to go out -where she was visiting her folks with the kid -to see a house with her that they would eventually buy. Alex took issue with this and responded petulantly, childishly, getting angry and grabbing at his shirt until there was a dramatic flinging of buttons across the floor. They discussed this.
Look you knew about me.
I didn’t hide anything.
We are adults, aren’t we?
You knew the rules.
Please don’t justify yourself to me.
If you told me to fuck off, I’d have more respect for you.
After Dan told her to fuck off, Alex performed one of many actions to keep him near her longer. She slit her wrists and he missed the appointment to meet his wife in order to help Alex out. Thereby, we get a sense of Alex’s self-loathing, not just straight cold-blooded hate and disregard for others. She apologized like a child, and I cringed. I get it. For one moment, I considered what her life was like up to that point. Only one.
As I watched this movie again and thought it over, I got annoyed. I was going to maintain that this was just a story, not a moral fable. But watching how the scenes played out, it seemed that Alex was written to teach a lesson straight from the fairy tales – Grimm +1, rated R. Alex was drawn as the sympathetic monster-mentally ill and meeting up with the married wolf. I can give her a little empathy for that. For about a minute. After all, Alex was not responsible for a wife and child, but Dan was. A valid point:
Everyone was responsible for their actions.
- Dan could have kept it in his pants
- Alex could have chased a man who did not already belong to someone else
- Dan could have appreciated his wife fully like many of us were saying when he first cheated. ‘Whaaaaaaat?’ Ann Archer’s Beth gave us no good reasons for him to be bored, dissatisfied, or angry. If anything she was more of a prop in the film. A sweet, sexy prop
- Alex could get hurt feelings without reacting by drawing blood
So, under the heading of innocents in the story, I would place:
- adorable child
The dog could have done something. He saw all of it. He could have:
- Bit Alex
- Bit Dan
- Chewed up her early American furniture
- pooped on her rug
- pooped on his rug
- chewed up Dan’s briefs before the big case
- had sex with Alex to distract her
Okay, that last one would have made it an entirely different film that would not be legal in every state. Better scratch that one out.
I won’t tell you the ending in case you haven’t seen it and want to check out Alex for yourself. I will say the family was less a pet bunny and, without exception, the walking wounded by the second half of the film, both physically and mentally. Dan admitted to his infidelity and moved to a hotel, and Beth was in a car accident while looking for Ellen. Where was Ellen?
Yep. Alex picked her up from school and took her to an amusement park. As a full-time nanny at the time, I was more scared by this scene than the bunny scene. Dammit! It showed Alex’s ability to charm and woo, even an innocent, honest child. Children are natural bullshit detectors. It’s one thing to be willing to go to the nth degree to get your way; it is another thing entirely to be able to accomplish it with help from unwitting assistants. Such as earlier when they were getting ready to move, and Dan walked in to find Beth showing the apartment to Alex. Balls! Big fat ones. Beth told him that Alex was going to have a child, and gave Alex their phone number.
Alex was manipulative, shrewd, selfish, willing to go to any means to get her heart’s desire. I’m not convinced she accomplished that.
*This edition of Tantalizing Tuesday is my submission for the Great Villain Blog-a-thon 2017