‘Fatal Attraction’ Review: Paramount Plus TV Show Passable Remake

A few performances make this retelling worth watching, but it’s still eight episodes that are confusing for the wrong reasons.

“Fatal Attraction” is a story about hubris. Dan Gallagher (Joshua Jackson), the powerful Los Angeles County District Attorney, lives a modest life. He’s inherited the de facto family business, has a loving wife and daughter, and can navigate precarious legal situations with a well-placed phone call or two. Then a woman enters his life that he can’t ignore: Alex Forrest (Lizzy Caplan), a member of the victim services team, who ends up in the same courtroom corridor that Dan patrols on a daily basis.

You don’t need to have seen any movies from the 1980s to know that “Fatal Attraction” is also an affair story that plays out much like the film on which the Paramount+ series is based. Innocent enough interactions quickly add up to Dan and Alex sleeping together. Dan tries to end things and pretend their romantic few days never happened. Alex makes bigger and more dangerous attempts to get her attention. The eight-episode remake has the obligatory nods to its two-hour predecessor: a handwritten note, a first conversation at a bar, a few days of breezy urban adventures with a dog in tow, the creative use of some home decor items. There’s also a handful of head fakes featuring pieces of the film’s original iconography — both locations and objects — that should keep any viewer on their toes.

More than that, there are larger, conscious decisions to depart from the film that aim to make “Fatal Attraction” something that can stand on its own, even if it ends up not having that much consequence. . The move from Manhattan to Los Angeles is largely random, except for a sunny beach getaway. Alex, who works in the same DA’s office, makes this specifically a co-worker relationship, and it’s mostly more the convenience of bringing more of Dan’s colleagues into the fallout.

A few changes, however, lay the groundwork for something more substantial, a show that manages to tackle this central premise in a way that a 1987 film might not have had room for. This new “Fatal Attraction” frames their brief relationship as active rather than passive, a random misstep that got out of hand. The opening episode, written by showrunner and “Dirty John” creator Alexandra Cunningham, sets up Dan as a man who knows full well that he is faced with bad choices and is free to make them. Starting at the end and working backwards from the beginning of the series, Dan faces real consequences. Instead of retreating to the glamor of an ironic family portrait, this “Fatal Attraction” sees not just Alex’s killing as a wrongful death, but as something Dan is responsible for.

Lizzy Caplan as Alex Forest and Joshua Jackson as Dan Gallagher in Fatal Attraction Episode 3, Season 1 Streaming on Paramount+, 2023 Photo by Monty Brinton/Paramount+

“Fatal Attraction”

Monty Brinton/Paramount+

Opening the series at a parole hearing, Dan spends the rest of the season trying to clear his name. 2008 and 2023 blur from scene to scene, with the length and style of Jackson’s hair sometimes the only clues separating the 15-year reunions. The show finds some tenuous, mildly interesting thematic connections between the past and the present, and those jumps aren’t incoherent. However, they mess with the overall momentum of the show, sanding down the edges for a deliberate, meandering murder mystery instead of a fast-paced thriller.

The structure places Dan and Alex as two waves emanating from the center of the story. Roughly the first half sets up Dan’s life, placing his decision to have an affair with Alex in the context of a life full of other ill-advised decisions. (Jackson is very clever at gradually turning the dial from charming family man to law-abiding cynic.) Although the season flips the perspective early on, it’s not until the later chapters that we really see the other side of the equation.

This new “Fatal Attraction” is not meant to make Alex the secret hero of the story. He’s not even really her hero own a story presented as the result of a lifetime of manipulations and misunderstandings that escalated to the point where she had no choice but to divert them all to her weekend getaway with a married man. “Fatal Attraction” gives him all the markers of anxiety and depression — dropped notes, ringing ears, timed stupor — but does little to provide him with a lifeline.

For someone who recently proved in “Fleishman is in Trouble” that he can add so much to a character struggling with the decisions and disappointments of his own past, Caplan rarely gets a similar opportunity here. Instead, any attempt “Fatal Attraction” makes to put Alex’s decisions in perspective feels limp and fleeting, especially compared to the full tapestry of the Gallagher family. That Caplan insists that anything is comparable proves what he can add that remains unsaid. The fact that aside from his provocations, he remains largely incidental to the story, and his death will be a round indictment of both the source material (presumably intentional) and the show itself (presumably not).

Dan’s wife Beth (Amanda Peet) and daughter Ellen (Alyssa Jirrels) create an opportunity to examine the collateral family trauma he’s dragged them both into. While Dan searches for a new trial, Ellen is busy dealing with the Jungian echoes of her father’s decisions in the people around her at college. Both past and present, Peet does an admirable job of creating a distinct version of Beth that is free of the “wife scorned” mold. Gallagher also shows little sign of being haunted by the events of 15 years ago. It’s something that takes some of the urgency out of the show as a whole, but adds a strange, unexpected sense of peace to the 2023 sections.

Toby Huss as Mike Gerard in Fatal Attraction Episode 2, Season 1 streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo by Michael Moriatis/Paramount+

Toby Huss in ‘Fatal Attraction’

Michael Moriartis/Paramount+

The one undeniably wise addition to the show is Dan’s repairman friend Mike, played to perfection by the inimitable Toby Huss. Through him, “Fatal Attraction” gets a huge amount of personality (he’s one of the few who can actually sing Goldfish-esque dialogue), and he exudes an agreeable tinge of sleaze that the show largely (and to varying degrees) wisely) excises from this. from update. Part father figure, part confidante, part much-needed kick, Mike is the necessary counterweight to Dan. He also embodies something missing from Alex’s side, another sign that, despite all the devastating things he’s done throughout the story, the deck is stacked against him in either version.

If part of the appeal of the TV series version of “Fatal Attraction” is seeing what we find when there’s no definite beginning or end to what happened between Dan and Alex, what’s left here is a collection of still-fragmented ideas. work in pieces, but not together. The longer it goes on, the more new developments and revelations don’t so much reframe what happened before as render it irrelevant. “Fatal Attraction” suffers from the same paradox that plagues many of these projects that come out of the “reimagined as a limited series” process: somehow it’s both thin and overstuffed.

This is partly due to the time shift, which in the late 2000s entered the culturally neutral dead zone, where the grim remnants of the 90s are still among the court’s richest wardrobes, and the idea of ​​the phone camera is still with its relatives. infancy. The intensity of passion and violence during and after Dan and Alex’s affair has to be taken almost at face value. The look of this “Fatal Attraction” is pretty up to a point, but the visual engine serves up something far more palatable and far less abrasive than its spiritual predecessor. Aside from the visual curveball of a hallucination in the back half of the season, the palette and style is pretty much the bookish dramatization of Dan and Alex’s story, if they were the subjects of an actual crime podcast themselves.

What “Fatal Attraction” has is the foundation of this hubris. As Dan continues his quest for redemption after parole, he’s constantly met with people who tell him to his face how much they despise him. Even to the few people who don’t look down on her after a decade and a half, she’s a curiosity—a relic of a weird story they tell their buddies at happy hour, probably not far from where Dan and Alex were. their first flirtatious moment. Dan Gallagher is not the offended, complicated hero. But neither is anyone else. “Fatal Attraction” paints a picture in which almost everyone is flawed, and realizing that idea is its own risky game.

Grade: C+

The first three episodes of “Fatal Attraction” will premiere on April 30 on Paramount+. New episodes will be available every Sunday until May 28.

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