Joshua Jackson and Lizzy Caplain in Fatal Attraction
(Monty Brinton/Paramount+)

REVIEW: ‘Fatal Attraction’ Brings Nuance to an ’80s Thriller

4/5 fire sprinklers

When you think of erotic thrillers, Fatal Attraction is probably one of the first you think of. It and Basic Instinct were two movies that defined the genre, and maybe warned you against entering a relationship with Michael Douglas. But now that we as a society have begun moving away from the idea of the “crazy woman turns on man” dynamic in films, Paramount+’s television adaptation of Fatal Attraction seemed like something that might not be a great idea in the modern day mindset.

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But luckily the new series, which stars Joshua Jackson as Dan Gallagher and Lizzy Caplan as Alex Forrest, brings with it nuance, change, and a flip on the idea of a woman going to extremes in her desire for a man. Still ripe with the sexual tension and desire that the movie had, we get to see as Dan risks his family and home life with his wife Beth (Amanda Peet) and their daughter (Vivien Lyra Blair) to spend countless nights with Alex.

Where the show differs from the movie though is that it is not afraid to have its characters call out Dan for his actions. Granted, it has been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, but the change to have characters pointing out to Dan that he’s not some innocent guy this happened to, despite the facade he puts on at work, feels like a modern addition to the story.

It’s not all just her fault

Lizzy Caplan as Alex in Fatal Attraction
(Michael Moriatis/Paramount+)

One thing about the movie that has stuck with many who watched it was that Alex Forrest was often blamed for what happened between her and Dan Gallagher, but what really works with the television series Fatal Attraction is that the show lessens that blame. It’s not fully Alex’s problem and Dan isn’t completely innocent. Still, he becomes a victim as the series goes on, by Alex’s hand (same as the movie), but we know more about Alex’s motivations and her own struggles with her mental health.

The set up of the show is pretty much the same: Alex and Dan work together, they start an affair, things go awry when Alex somehow thinks their relationship is more than it is. Dan, a seemingly devoted family man, only sees Alex as a stress relief, while she is clearly taking their affair more seriously and her desire for Dan drives her to a level of obsession that becomes deadly. It is a story as old as time, but the show reimagines this as a revenge fantasy in a way that it just doesn’t feel quite as “crazy woman” to me.

For once, the story is balanced in who is at fault, and yes, it is still that revenge story that generations have been obsessed with, but Caplan’s performance adds layers to Alex that weren’t there previously. Paired with the series having a myriad of female characters struggling with things that the men in their lives have done to them, the series flips the narrative on its head—which is something that Glenn Close has always tried to do, to her credit, post the release of the film.

That same attraction for the audience is there

LIzzy Caplan in fatal attraction with joshua jackson in the rain
(Michael Moriatis/Paramount+)

While many modern audiences look at a story like Fatal Attraction as a flaw in the feminist lens of cinema, the series does provide more layers to its characters to combat that ideology. For the most part, its male characters are just sort of there, doing what they can to help Dan, and then going on to their own lives without thinking too much about anything. But the women are the ones dealing with Dan, Alex, and the aftermath of their breakup.

We get to see how this affair has affected all the women in Dan’s life, the impact it has had on his career, and for the most part, it is only the female characters who are pointing out to him how everything that has happened is so messed up, but not in a way that gives Dan innocence. In fact, they specifically point out what he does wrong in this situation and why it’s also on him.

It is frankly a pretty refreshing look into this story that so many of us know, and the show will keep you on the edge of your seat, even if you know what is going to happen.

(featured image: Monty Brinton/Paramount+)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.