Infidelity is OK, Pt II: Swimfan

In 2002, Fatal Attraction was loosely remade into Swimfan. The cheating husband, Dan, becomes devoted boyfriend Ben, to girlfriend Amy (reincarnated from Dan’s wife Beth.) The woman – although more of a girl – he cheated with becomes Madison (Erika Christensen), the new girl in town. Initially, I thought this movie was the better of the two because it wrote Ben’s infidelity as a one-time moment of passion, and didn’t try to justify them through Madison’s insanity. But watching it again recently, I realised these plot changed brought about stupid justifications of their own.

Ben is devoted to Amy, but runs into Madison having a bit of trouble with her locker. A few contrivances later, they go out for dinner. She admits she ‘likes’ him, he admits he has a girlfriend, then, because neither of them wants to go home, he takes her to the school to show off his swimming technique.

I mean, WTF? Someone tells you they’re interested in you, you turn then down because you’re in a relationship, then you take them somewhere which involves you stripping down and showing off your fine physique.

Cut to them having sex against the pool wall, with Ben not making much effort to turn her down. (Imagine: ‘No.’ ‘I want you to.’ ‘OK.’) She asks him to tell her he loves her, even if he doesn’t mean it, so he does.

Shortly after, things get very hairy, despite her promise to forget about it and just be friends. She’s convinced he loves her, convinced Amy stands in the way, so she has to kill Amy. Of course, he gets the better of her in the end, and he and Amy happily walk off into the sunset.

(I should point out that something I preferred in this movie was that Amy initially dumps him, and only takes him back when he shown genuine remorse. Much better then Beth’s vague forgiveness.)

In Fatal Attraction, Alex’s psychotic behaviour had some context. She had been treated like a girlfriend, discarded, fell pregnant and been discarded again. You can kind of sympathise, even if her reaction is OTT. Madison accepts from the get-go that Ben is taken, has sex with him in the heat of the moment, and accepts that nothing will happen. There’s no way to sympathise with her when she becomes psychotic; she’s just some nutcase who changed her mind after the deed was done. In trying to make Ben look more sympathetic, they took away from Madison’s justification for being so pissed off.

While I appreciated that someone high up got that audiences aren’t as tolerant of men having affairs as they used to be, this was a bad movie to demonstrate a male character’s momentary weakness and instant remorse, because it undermined the female character’s motivations.

In their own ways, I think Fatal Attraction and Swimfan were as bad as each other. And if you must watch one, watch Attraction; Glenn Close in the much better actress.

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