A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the raw moments include intense (and, of course, adulterous) sex scenes early on, with kinky overtones since they occur in an elevator, on a kitchen sink, etc. Violence involves bloody suicide attempts, a killing, and an infamous traumatic moment with a pet found killed. There is a considerable amount of swearing. Not only does the "hero" cheat, but he also wants Alex to have an abortion. The common, theatrical version of Fatal Attraction carries an audience-selected ending that just treats Alex as a monster to be slain; look on the DVD and "special editions" for the filmmakers' trickier original ending, in which the traitorous hero pays more dearly for his philandering.
What's the story?
Daniel Gallagher (Michael Douglas), a successful New York corporate lawyer, is happily married and a father, but when his wife, Beth (Anne Archer), takes their daughter on a trip, Daniel seizes the opportunity to enjoy a whirlwind affair with an unattached acquaintance, chic book editor Alex (Glenn Close). But Alex doesn't envision their passionate relationship evaporating when Beth comes back; she wants Daniel all to herself. After a suicide attempt, she badgers Daniel at work, vandalizes his car, and threatens to reveal everything to Beth. Police don't help Daniel (if anything, they're smugly amused at this rich yuppie lawyer's ordeal), and soon unstable Alex is stalking the family, with murder on her deluded mind.
Is it any good?
FATAL ATTRACTION is a grown-up, well-modulated, but deservedly R-rated narrative that builds with relentless force and presents a truly compelling villain in Alex. As nasty as she is, she also clearly articulates the moral code espoused in the movie: Daniel betrayed his marriage vows, and there should be consequences. Daniel is indeed quite a rat, but commentators made less of that than the career-woman-bashing stereotype embodied in Alex, a strong female who has it all together but is actually a ticking time bomb of hormones, hate, and homicide (no trick is missed; Alex has other suitors but ignores them to pursue Daniel). The ending was notoriously switched before release, from an understated twist to violence that pushes this into slasher-horror territory. This movie is definitely not for kids; however, as an anti-infidelity scare flick for adults it still gets the (scarlet) "A."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Fatal Attraction's messages -- especially who's more at fault, the obsessed and dangerously deluded Alex, or Dan, who betrays his family by having an affair with her? What would one think of Dan if he had gotten away with his adulterous fling? Does Alex have a point about Dan being selfish?
Adultery isn't confined to movie characters. Even actors and entertainers have been unfaithful in their super-glamorous showbiz marriages (believe it or not). Talk about why this happens, and whatever happened to "for better or for worse?"
Ask kids if they know of situations like the one in the movie among their peers (Fatal Attraction clones like The Crush and Swimfan did indeed bring this plot to high-school environments). How would young viewers handle obsessive relationships?
For kids who love thrillers
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.