A film review by Craig J. Koban November 30, 2009
2009, PG-13, 105 mins.
2009, PG-13, 105 mins.
Idris Elba: Derek / Beyonce Knowles: Sharon / Ali Larter: Lisa / Jerry O’Connell: Ben
Directed by Steve Shill / Written by David Loughrey
Hey, have you ever seen FATAL ATTRACTION? THE TEMP? SWIMFAN? THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE? THE CRUSH? PLAY MISTY FOR ME?
you have answered “yes” to one or more of those offerings, then
there is no reason whatsoever to waste any of your valuable time on OBSESSED,
which takes great pains to copy nearly every single prosaic, perfunctory,
and ham-infested cliché of the girlfriend/temptress-from-hell genre.
Some films operate purely on autopilot, whereas truly rudimentary
and by-the-book efforts like OBSESSED go well beyond being mechanical;
this film one big 105 minute prop.
possessed smart, attractive, and well meaning people to participate in such a
deplorably forgettable bore like this?
Beyonce Knowles – who was so wonderful in DREAMGIRLS
– not only decided to sign the dotted line as lead actress, but also as
a producing partner with – as inexplicable as it seems – “Magic” Johnson.
Yes, that one. The only serious rationale was either (a) they thought that there
was a story here that was worthy of being told or (b) that there was a
film here that could nab them all a quick and easy paycheck.
I would opt for the latter explanation, seeing as there is no other
possible reason beyond financial for OBSESSED to be made.
However, maybe Knowles desperately was trying to harness her inner
Pam Grier, seeing as she occupies a catfight near the film’s
inordinately preposterous conclusion that involves her screaming,
“I’ll wipe the floor with your skinny white ass” to the Caucasian
Nothing is surprising or even remotely off-kilter in this genre film. Not one thing. It goes along the safest and most conventional trajectory without even a hint of taking this material into new, uncharted ground. What we have here for the plot is nothing that we have not been exposed to endless times in the past (and done better, I might add). We have a wealthy, attractive, and happy young upper class couple living their American Dream existence only to have it irrevocably shattered with the appearance of a sexy and alluring new office colleague of the husband. The woman - seemingly ordinary at first, showing normal feelings of attraction and yearning towards the husband – quickly morphs into a vengeful and cunning psychopath that will stop at nothing to ensure that she and her “prey” will live happily ever after. Of course, this leads to the obligatory misunderstandings between husband and wife, which leads to a hasty break-up, which further leads to a reconciliation and is concluded by the couple defending their very lives from this textbook nut job.
blah, blah, blah…
(Knowles, bland and forgetable) and her husband, Charles (Idris Elba, giving an
reassuringly grounded and believable performance throughout the film’s ridiculous shenanigans) have been married for three years and have recently had a
baby boy. Derek is steadily
climbing the corporate ladder, as he is an executive vice president of an
L.A. asset management firm. He has it all: good looks, a tremendously secure job, a hot babe of a wife, an adorable son, and a three-story home in a posh
and affluent neighborhood. They
also have a super sweet Mercedes-Benz.
Things could not be better for the pair.
wrench is thrown into the couples’ perfectly well oiled machine of a
life in the form of Lisa Sheridan (Ali Larter, an attractive actress, but
never once convincing as a mentally deranged stalker), who is a new temp
that displays an unusual amount of faithfulness and loyalty to her new
boss in Derek. Initially, Lisa outwardly seems like an intelligent,
proactive, and determined secretary, catering to every need of her
employer. As days go by,
though, she begins to display some deep felt attraction towards Derek, but is it
just idle infatuation or a modest schoolgirl crush that she will get over?
Alas, the film’s script is not sly and crafty enough to tease
viewers with the tantalizing possibilities, so instead it decides to go
the simplistic route and make her a paranoid, delusional maniac in heels.
The tip off to her psychosis is revealed with every methodical beat
of the film’s obvious music score, which bellows with tension-filled chords
whenever a vile and despicable thought crosses her mind.
course, when we have the requisite scene in the film where Lisa is
introduced to Derek’s wife, she instantly sees her as an obstacle that
must be overtaken. Sharon on
the other hand immediately does not trust or like this new temp, perhaps
because she is very easy on the eyes and her husband’s eyes have been
known to wander. Yet, Derek calmly reassures Sharon that this temp is
only at the office for a short while and that nothing is prone to happen
between the pair. Yet, what
both of them fail to see is that Lisa is a conniving predator that will
use an astounding array of clever manipulations and traps that will make
Derek appear as a lustful, amoral, woman hungry adulterer and she as the
innocent babe in the woods. Clearly,
Derek progressively gets more defensive with each turn of Lisa’s warped
plan to win him over, and she is not easily swayed.
Even after Derek's repeated attempts to turn her away for good, she still
peruses, right up to a fateful moment in the film when she pops a date
rape drug in his martini while he’s on a business trip.
Things snowball really quickly from this point, and it's only a
matter of time before we have a climatic confrontation between Lisa and
Sharon as to whom has the right to spend the rest of their life with
has three commendable traits: Firstly, the cast is attractive; they are
nice to look at. Secondly
- and more seriously - I
liked how Elba’s husband figure (unlike, say, Michael Douglas’
fairly amoral and questionable character in FATAL ATTRACTION) is
presented as a fairly decent and honorable man.
He’s neither a male slut, nor an unfaithful man to his wife, nor
does he give into temptation with the very sultry and available Lisa.
Lastly, everyone loves a catfight, and the conclusion (which is
revealed in the trailers, so no need for a spoiler warning here) offers up
a fist-pumping, teeth-clenched,
woman-on-woman donnybrook between Sharon and Lisa, which certainly
appeases to the film’s target audience; that is to say viewers that will
get easy and cheap thrills from seeing an empowered black woman kicking
the crap out of a fanatical and loony white chick.
Perhaps what could have made OBSESSED more tolerable on a cheeky
and subversive level is if it more broadly embraced its blaxploitaion
leanings. Make no mistake:
they are there. When you have
a black female hero and a white female villain, it’s hard to overlook
the racial overtones, and the film could have become an entertainingly sordid and
sleazy affair if it had more nerve.
nerve is what OBSESSED lacks in spades; it’s funny, but for being deemed
as an erotic thriller, the film is anything but erotic (which is not
helped by the stunted and nerveless PG-13 rating...sigh).
Beyond its disapprovingly docile tone, the script by David Loughery
(THE STEPFATHER, THE GOOD SON, and last year’s fiercely wrongheaded LAKEVIEW
TERRACE) manages to turn a blind eye to rationality and realism at
every turn. For example, the
more Lisa turns on to Derek, the more he subverts the experiences and does
not tell anyone about it, including his office’s HR department.
Clearly, Derek naïvely lives within a tight and ignorant cultural
bubble, having never seen movies where characters like him have starved
off the advances of co-workers, only to say nothing to their superiors and
bosses which leads to them later being brought up on false charges of
sexual assault by the woman. However, Derek does adhere to the principles of the “Idiot
Plot Syndrome” in the instance that he allows everything to happen to
him...seeing as he is an idiot.
there is the character of Lisa herself, whom is rarely a compelling
antagonist here; she’s more of an engine that is used to propel the story
than a flesh and blood persona. Instead
of giving her plausible motivations and getting into her twisted mindset,
Lisa is cartoonishly developed as a sick and outrageously warped human
being. By failing to give us
a portal into her prerogative, OBSESSED is almost never scary or sinister.
All Lisa becomes is a vanilla (pun intended) stock villain right out of the cliché
factory, which is not aided by how ludicrously broad Ali Larter plays her.
Since this oversexed, man-hungry creature is never intriguing, never
realistically drawn, and never even attains a level sophisticated menace, Lisa
emerges as a character that invites scornful laughter, which is not the
I guess that’s what ultimately is what hurts OBSESSED the most; this
female-predator domestic thriller is just dull, lifeless, and without
anything approximately innovation or creativity.
It’s a thriller that just spins its wheels with such an
exasperating repetitiveness. Films
like this – even the ones where you can see precisely where they are
heading before the final credits roll by – still manage to generate a
legitimate sense of unease and pathos.
OBSESSED inspires a lot of giggles, eye rolling, and
Lacking a sense of timeliness or veracity with its underlining
story, combined with a scandalously unsexy and ridiculous tone throughout,
there is very little to obsess about while watching OBSESSED. Yes, it’s a momentary giddy thrill to see Beyonce Knowles
talking a good game of trash while methodically beating on her white
devilled prey near the film’s conclusion, but the film leading up to
that sensationalistic moment perhaps was not smutty, trashy, or
sensationalistic enough. Instead,
OBSESSED is just another in a painfully long list of empty-calorie, low
rent stalker thrillers that is far-too-easily avoidable.