April 24, 2009


Honey, if he liked it then he should have put a ring on it

Grade: F

Director: Steve Shill

Starring: Beyoncé Knowles, Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Jerry O’Connell, and Christine Lahti

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

It is hard to decide which is more offensive: That Obsessed perpetuates the pervasive, insidious fear held by many in the African-American community that white harlots are laying in wait to lure black men (and their children) away from black women once the men achieve any heightened level of social or financial status, or that the film lacks the honesty and guts to acknowledge the racial elephant it hauls into the bedroom. The words “black,” “white,” or any synonyms thereof are never uttered. However, intent is not an issue, seeing how the same screenwriter who penned the miscegenation-angst rant Lakeview Terrace also wrote this joke of a screenplay. Fact is there is little daylight between the specter of black men lusting after white women that infects Birth of a Nation and this brand of nonsense. The key difference, once you set aside the racist overtones, is that Obsessed is a really, really bad movie.

It all begins during the opening credits, when married couple Derek (The Wire’s Idris Elba) and Sharon (Beyoncé Knowles) nearly stumble through loose floorboards lining the attic of their new suburban home. Naturally, those rickety beams will eventually figure into a finale that actually concludes with a freeze-frame dissolve. Yes, this is a film for those who watch the Lifetime Movie Network for edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

Derek, Executive Vice-President of a financial brokerage firm, finds himself the target of Lisa (Heroes’ Ali Larter), a slinky blond temp who we know is sexy because appropriately-named director Steve Shill’s juvenile lens leers over close-ups of her inner thigh throughout the film’s opening act. Soon enough, Lisa is groping Derek in the men’s bathroom, flashing him in the company parking deck, and spiking his drink so she can play touchy-feely with him during a business retreat. Needless to say, when Derek rebuffs Lisa’s advances, hell hath no fury like a lunatic scorned.

Yes, this is the umpteenth dozen retread of Fatal Attraction. The difference is that while Adrian Lyne’s cult-classic shrewdly contrasts a slattern’s insanity with a bedswerver’s immorality, Derek’s fidelity and nobility are not really called into question. True, he does not promptly report Lisa’s flirtations to his wife, but Sharon’s sore feelings heal after a three-month separation montage that ends once Derek agrees to hand over his Mercedes Benz. Absent any overt enticement from Derek, we are never clear why Lisa infatuates over him other than he is nice and she is deranged.

Any attempt at in-depth analysis notwithstanding, Obsessed is simply a poorly made film. It is ridiculous dialogue muttered in overactors’ theater, with Knowles typically inept, Elba unusually off-kilter, and Larter laughably cartoonish. And, if latent racism isn’t unsettling enough, tack on a shifty gay assist to round out the circle of intolerance. Shill transitions nearly every paint-by-numbers scene with a pan across the Los Angeles skyline, but make no mistake…something this hapless could only take place in la-la land.

Neil Morris

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