Fatal Attraction (1987) 'I Mean, I'm Not Gonna Be Ignored Dan!'

Glenn Close teaches the audience about so much more than avoiding Bunny Boilers...

Sweet Lord Fatal Attraction could give you a complex about dating anyone ever again. Or having a one night stand. Or even looking at someone in too much of an approachable/suggestive way, which could be misinterpreted by them as a sign that the two of you are meant to be together. 

I first watched Fatal Attraction when I was about 19; first year of University, opting to stay in one night instead of joining one of the many fancy-dress, Saturday night Fresher’s events (I now acknowledge that the latter would have been the socially healthier thing to do). So it was just me and a bag of Chilli Heatwave Doritos that sat down to watch the film, and by the time the end credits rolled on up my laptop screen, I’d firmly placed Glenn Close in my brain’s ‘Can Do No Wrong’ file. 

It was her breakthrough role, from which she would go on to star in many of my favourites; Dangerous Liaisons, 101 Dalmatians, Mars Attacks! Now, I know that this post should predominantly be about the film, but I’m going to work on the presumption here that many of you will have seen the film or roughly know the outline of the story, and instead talk about the challenge Glenn Close faced in portraying a woman who is mentally ill, obsessed, violent and yet still not the out and out villain of the piece, not for me anyway. 

One of the many issues I have with how Hollywood chooses to deal with mental illness is the infuriating way in which it seems to act as some unspoken code for ‘evil’ or ‘baddie’. Especially in the thriller genre, all the writer has to do is suggest that the character is on medication, or getting some form of ‘professional help’, and the narrative of the rest of the film is left clean open for that person to carry out some atrocity, be the rapist, be the murderer, later on in the film. 

The central issue, and the one that Hollywood seem completely incapable of accepting or even understanding, is that mentally ill does not mean crazy. It is irresponsible that, and real talk here, a factor of life that will affect the vast majority of us either personally or through our friends and family, can be so poorly represented on such a vast scale.

When Close was told that she had the part of Alex Forrest in the film, the first thing she did was take the script to two different physiatrists, to firstly find out whether the behaviour was realistic; the cold calling, stalking, vandalising of property, and then to learn what could have caused it. The psychiatrists agreed that the behaviour was accurate of someone who had been molested and sexually tortured for a long period of time as a child. And that’s where Glenn Close becomes a Queen in my eyes. The intelligence on her part to acknowledge that there will have been a reason behind her character’s actions. Mentally ill does not immediately equate to violence, there will always be a story. 

This is where I get nervous about writing, because it probably says so much more about myself than it does the film, but I never had Glenn Close’s character pegged as a undeniable villain, even though plenty of ‘Top Film Villain Tables’ beg to differ. For me it’s really Michael Douglas’ character that’s the number one dick of the piece. Loving wife (with whom he was punching well above his weight), cute kid, faithful dog, nice apartment in New York, good friends etc and he still has to go and be a little slut, but that’s a different talking point all together. 

At the moment it seems like Glenn Close may still sadly be in the minority of individuals involved in big projects, who want to actively take responsibility for the role they’re taking on and the product they’re producing. In Fatal Attraction she did an incredible job, out-shining everyone else on the screen. So much so, that when she finally gets that bullet through her chest, and slides down the white-tiled wall, a part of me couldn’t help but think ‘dammit!’. 

Illustration by Tamara-Jade Kaz