Obsessed (2009) / Thriller-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual material, suggestive dialogue, violence and thematic content
Running time: 108 min.
Cast: Idris Elba, Beyonce Knowles, Ali Larter, Jerry O'Connell, Christine Lahti, Matthew Humphreys, Bonnie Perlman, Bruce McGill
Director: Steve Shill
Screenplay: David Loughery
It's The Temp redux. Obsessed is a glossy thriller that delivers everything on a surface level. The makers of the film think that it will be provocative, but its PG-13 rating equates to a lack of bite, and the lack of underlying themes of race or female-to-male sexual harassment in the workplace leaves it without distinction. What we have is a vehicle solely riding on audiences looking for mild titillation involved with seeing the main actors looking terrific. It's as if the story exists in a vacuum, where our only interest in the storyline is to see how Derek (Elba, American Gangster), an upstanding married investment banker, can retain his wife (Knowles, Cadillac Records), young child and career despite the fact that a jealous and tenacious other woman (Larter, Resident Evil: Extinction) refuses to give up once she has her man in her sights.
At least Fatal Attraction, a film that one can't help but compare Obsessed to, had the husband fool around with the sensual, dangerous woman. Her actions are extreme, but one might understand her exacting a sort of revenge for being shut out of the man's life when he came on so strong. Obsessed's antagonist, Lisa Sheridan, just has an immense attraction to one of the big players in the firm she is working in and makes it her life's mission to engage in a romantic affair with him. Why does she habitually lie, terrorize and break laws in order to do so when everything she does only makes him like her less? No reason is given. We know nothing about her past. The only character development we're offered is that she's nearly irresistibly gorgeous and completely off her rocker.
Without rooting these characters or their situations in anything that resembles the real world, all we can do is admire the attractiveness of the performers and a few sensational moments, such as a deadly catfight between don't-take-no-crap wife Sharon and don't-take-no-for-an-answer Lisa. The actors should be commended for delivering good performances despite the shallowness of their characters, and Beyonce in particular impresses with some very believable scenes where she's confronting her husband about his recent secretiveness once she finds out that the temp is more than a coworker. The same can't be said for the supporting characters, who come off more as one-note caricatures, including the stereotypically gay, gossipy office employee and the skeptical, and largely unhelpful, detective on the case.
Predictability is the death knell for most thrillers, and this one is DOA from the first moment you see the happy couple realize that the floorboards in the attic are not structurally sound. You know that eventually the temp is going to ruin Derek's life if he doesn't submit, that Derek will keep things on the hush because he thinks he has everything under control, that he'll eventually end up in Sharon's doghouse for his perceived infidelity, and that the two fit and feisty women will have a showdown in the film's climax. There's never a moment where you'll think, "Now that's a clever twist!" All the film musters is a basic pacification of its audience with enough guilty pleasure moments of seduction, betrayal and revenge to keep people from zoning out altogether.
Obsessed isn't the worst thriller of its ilk, but it does come about 20 years too late to cause even the smallest hint of artistic ripple in the genre. "Obsessed" isn't very far from "Obsolete", in the dictionary, and as a movie.
©2009 Vince Leo