Monday, February 1, 2010

Obsessed (2009): A Review (Review #42)


Black Mama, White Psycho...

Take note: Obsessed is a serious film. You can tell that from the fact that the star is billed as Beyoncé Knowles. Not Beyoncé. Not even as Sasha Fierce. She is Beyoncé Knowles, so we know she's serious, and that the film is serious. It's a pity no one else is serious in this unintended comedy.

Derek Charles (Idris Elba) is a successful business executive with a beautiful wife, Sharon (Knowles) and a new son. She wants to go back to school, but for now Sharon is occupied in setting up their home while he continues to work. 

At work, he meets new temp Lisa Sheridan (Ali Larter). She quickly becomes fixated on Derek, even though she knows he's married. Her flirtations come to a head (no pun intended) at the Christmas party, where she comes close to raping him. He rebuffs her repeated advances, even when she appears in his car wearing little except an overcoat. Despite his continuing rejections, Lisa won't be ignored, so to speak.

Lisa follows Derek to an out-of-town seminar, where she drugs him and later tries to commit suicide in his room. Detective Reese (Christine Lahti), who is investigating Lisa's apparent suicide attempt, doesn't believe Derek's claims that Lisa isn't his mistress, and neither does Sharon. Even after Lisa is discharged, she can't let go, threatening the Charles' baby and culminating in an epic catfight.

Now, I confess, I love a good catfight as much as any man, and the final Lisa/Sharon confrontation is the highlight. Obsessed, however, is such an odd mix of suspense and laughter. I'm prepared to have some suspension of disbelief, but there are too many points of logic to contend with. 

Let's tackle a few. If Derek is a major executive, why doesn't he just fire Lisa at the start? After she tries to rape him at the Christmas party, I would figure that's enough for termination, although I doubt he'd need any reason to.

There are at least two moments in Obsessed where only in the movies could those moments happen. One is right before Derek goes to tell Sharon what Lisa's been doing. Sharon's gotten off the phone with her sister. She tells Derek her sister's husband is leaving her for someone he met at work. What are the odds something like this will happen right before Derek tells her about the woman flirting with him? 

The second is when Sharon discovers Lisa in her house and knocks her out; only in the movies would Sharon just stay there instead of calling the police or hitting the panic button.

As one watches Obsessed, one is amazed at just how stupid everyone in the film really is. How does Lisa gain access to Derek's hotel room twice? How can Derek tell Sharon that Lisa coming on to him was "no big deal"? I would imagine a woman getting into my car in panties and an overcoat would merit a mention. When Lisa comes into the Charles' house while they're at dinner, why would the babysitter let Lisa waltz into their home to see their child and take her word that she was an old friend of the family rather than say, "I'll call her" or "Let me speak to her". Even while writing that part, I couldn't help but laugh at how absurd David Loughery's screenplay is.

I also wondered how Lisa thought a drugged Derek would be in much of a position to please her physically. Maybe I'm wrong and a man barely conscious can have successful sex with someone, but I doubt it. How is Derek's gay assistant Patrick (Matthew
Humphreys) be both the office gossip and clueless about what going on with his boss? How could Detective Reese just take Lisa's word that she and Derek had sex when I figure there are tests that could verify this? It's all too much to take.

As a side note, Sharon has made it clear she does not want her husband to have female assistants. Leaving aside how that reveals a certain insecurity over Derek's fidelity, does she also require the male assistants to be gay?

The performances match the ridiculousness of the plot. Ali Larter appears so uncomfortable throughout the film, as if she is trying to act but can't quite commit to either be camp or be serious. One would wonder if one of her other personalities from Heroes has taken over. Elba is unmemorable in his bland performance as Derek. Though their roles are small in the film, Lahti and Jerry O'Connell (as Derek's best friend Ben) are not given much to do. I especially fell sorry for Lahti, who's a very talented actress and deserves much better, though it's good to see her working.

Worse off is Queen Bey. Beyoncé Knowles tries, and she tries well, but certain scenes, like when she is ever on the phone, shows she's still learning to be an actress. She may prove an actress yet, but in Obsessed (which she produced) she still needs someone to act with and isn't at a point where she can handle monologue realistically. Even when she acts with someone, she still seems a bit hesitant, as if getting the lines out is more important than giving them meaning. Steve Shill could not get a good performance from Knowles, but given he could not get one out of Elba, the fault here to be fair lies with Shill more than with Knowles.

One technical aspect of Obsessed that made the movie worse was James Dooley's score. It made its presence known constantly and rather than set the mood it only hammered what we were suppose to feel more and more. It was so overwrought that I made a special note of how intrusive the music was in my notes on two occasions. When the music overwhelms the film, it can't make a movie better or more intense.

I figure that today, we're not afraid of certain things. We're not afraid of black men in positions of power. We're not afraid of woman taking the lead in pursuing romances. We're not afraid of firing temps. Judging from Obsessed, perhaps we shouldn't be afraid of any of those things, but we should be very afraid that anyone connected with this film might want to make more movies. That would be far more frightening than anything on the screen.


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