Release Date: April 24, 2009
Cast: Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Beyonce Knowles
By Sean Chavel
Buy a big bag of popcorn and get ready to shout at the screen. "Obsessed" is that kind of movie - one of those overripe thrillers that elicits from its audience lots of howls, hollering and oohs. It’s a medium-cool sexy movie but not an overtly erotic movie not unless you find harassment to be a turn-on. Of course, the plot summary is a recipe for movie trash: Happily married couple in the perfect house gets stalked from salacious blonde from hell. The blonde in stilettos is the harasser.
On its outlook appearance, this flick looks like an interracial “Fatal Attraction” for the new millennium. Idris Elba (HBO’s “The Wire”) is Derek Charles, the husband, while Beyoncé Knowles (“Dreamgirls”) plays his wife Sharon – high attractive quotient for these two. In scene one, they are moved into their new house and already frisky on the bedroom carpet. “I don’t want any 30-second nookie,” Sharon says. “Don’t you have to get to work?” Derek has got time, always got time for his wife. The difference between “Obsessed” and “Fatal Attraction” some 22 years ago is that Derek pronounces he is obstinately faithful and would never do anything to damage the integrity of his family. He doesn’t just say that, he believes in it. Michael Douglas could take lessons from this guy in sexual sobriety.
The movie is at its most enticing with its’ overboard flirtations. At work, Derek the VP has a new lusty blonde temp in the form of Ali Carter (“Heroes”), as Lisa Sheridan, as the kind of girl who is constantly on the lookout to straddle an executive type. As the hotter than usual temp, she gets nicknamed temp-girl, from all the leering office employees. Derek’s co-worker informs him that she’s got the hots for him. Lisa’s body language is constantly suggestive, but Derek thinks he can handle her and keep her platonically stationed. He is wrong, as proven at the office Christmas party, where a few dirty martinis later Lisa gets Derek pinned up against the bathroom stall. Does blood-alcohol count make it easier to resist temptation?
Derek turns down sexual invitations from Lisa but she continues to do anything to snare him. Derek does his damnedest to keep his wife in the dark about what is going on at work, but it’s inevitable that Sharon will discover (the half-truth), will mistake her husband’s words, will become furiously untrusting of her husband, and throw him out of the house. Throw in the law and you got a man-victim under duress and a mad-vixen-homewrecker on the loose.
Behind the camera making his feature film directorial debut, Steve Shill (who helmed several HBO series) laces nearly the entire film with a foreboding and anxiety-ridden music score which only underlines the pop-melodramatic appeal – this is a movie, not art is what it’s saying. He gets good performances out of the actors and knows how to underline his star’s body language which is integral to a movie like this.
Yet there is a hidden strength to the movie. The screenwriter is David Loughery whose last credit was the underrated “Lakeview Terrace.” That Samuel L. Jackson film (one of Jackson’s three or four best performances by the way) avoided cliché pitfalls, and his script for “Obsession” is nearly clean aside from two or three scenes. I think many of the developments are very un-cliché, which is different from unlikely plot concept which “Obsession” of course has to be. I never said that “Obsession” was preposterous-free, I’m only saying that it is less typical than its regulated genre, emphasizing on anxiety and nervy dialogue. Many will shout “cliché!” during this film, but I see that Loughery takes the road less traveled which is what is good about his work.
Loughery writes with the interest of creating looming threats instead of plowing through his script with artificial plug-in “action.” He builds and builds tension in small building blocks until he lets he takes the cork out of the bottle in the climax which pits bitch-on-bitch. The movie is a lot of fun if you’re into slutty come-ons, short dresses and bitch slaps. You gotta be able to understand the irony that something so bad can be good. “Obsession” is trash but it’s tastier and more salacious trash than usual. It’s certainly better than the ads suggest.