Fatal Attraction review: A decent thriller undone by a ridiculous ending

The 20th century was a heyday for stories featuring unstable women, with films like Play Misty for Me, Misery, The Crush, Basic Instinct, and Fatal Attraction. However, these stories often fell short in explaining their female characters’ behavior beyond labeling them as “crazy.”

The new Paramount+ series adaptation of Fatal Attraction seeks to address this shortcoming by reimagining the tale of a married man’s affair with a troubled colleague in a more enlightened era. Starring Joshua Jackson and Lizzy Caplan, the series presents a compelling thriller about a man brought down by his own arrogance and privilege. However, despite its strong performances, the show’s ending undermines its attempt to offer a more nuanced portrayal of its characters.

Los Angeles Deputy DA Dan Gallagher (Jackson) is accustomed to success in both his professional and personal life, but a brief affair with the enigmatic Alex Forrest (Caplan) leads to unforeseen consequences. The series follows Dan’s story through two timelines, exploring the affair and its aftermath, as well as his life after serving 15 years in prison for Alex’s murder.

While Fatal Attraction initially struggles with pacing, it gains momentum as it delves into the evolving dynamics of sexual politics from the ’80s to the present day. The series offers a deeper look into Alex’s character, providing insights into her upbringing and motivations. It also explores Dan’s attempts to clear his name and reconnect with his family, all while facing scrutiny for his past actions.

The performances in Fatal Attraction are a highlight, with Caplan and Jackson delivering compelling portrayals of complex characters. The series also benefits from exploring themes of psychology and mental health through Dan’s daughter Ellen (Alyssa Jirrels), who is writing her thesis on Carl Jung.

However, Fatal Attraction falters in its final moments, delivering a conclusion that feels illogical and out of step with the rest of the series. This misstep detracts from the overall impact of the show, undermining its attempt to offer a more nuanced portrayal of its characters.

Despite its flaws, Fatal Attraction is a solid thriller that provides a fresh perspective on a familiar story. Grade: C+

The first three episodes of Fatal Attraction premiere Sunday, April 30, on Paramount+.

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