Movie Review: Obsessed
By Matthew Huntley
May 7, 2009
Back in the late '80s/early '90s, movies like Obsessed were everywhere. And it's no wonder - these types of movies proved to be formidable players at the box office. Audiences were insatiable for the "yuppie thriller," if you will, in which a couple's perfect lives are suddenly torn apart, often at the hands of a psychopathic villain.
The primary difference between the movies from 20 years ago and the modern ones is the content. Back then, the studios and filmmakers took greater risks with regards to violence, sexuality and damaged characters. The movies deserved their R-ratings and we appreciated them more because we sensed the filmmakers were taking a gamble.
That's not so much the case anymore, when movies like Obsessed water down the adult stuff to PG-13 levels just to sell more tickets. I miss the days when thrillers about adults were made for adults. They were more intelligent and contained more profound statements about the darker sides of human nature. The new ones just seem to tease us and remain overly cautious about crossing any offensive lines.
Derek (Idris Elba) and Sharon (Beyonce Knowles) are a happily married couple with a young toddler. When the movie opens, they're moving into their luxurious new home in a suburb of Los Angeles. All is right in the world.
Then Lisa (Ali Larter) enters the picture. She's a sultry blond with long legs and flowing blond hair who has just started as a temp at Derek's company. She eventually fills every position around the office, including Derek's assistant. Soon enough, she puts the moves on him at the company Christmas party and tries to seduce him in the men's room. He stays strong and rejects her, but she persists.
Just as Derek is about to tell Sharon, she interrupts him and tells him her sister's husband has been cheating on her. She then asks, "Now, what is it you wanted to tell me?" Isn't it funny how these types of moments only happen in movies and on television? That's probably why they never feel real. They're cheap ways that prevent the conflict from getting resolved too early.
For no other reason than because she's crazy, Lisa continues to stalk Derek, and she goes so far as to pretend she's his wife at a company retreat. Later on, she slips a drug into his drink and apparently dry humps him in his hotel room while he's half asleep. The incident doesn't really add up to much, though.
Sharon eventually finds out about this broad, and it's war. All we do is sit back and wait for the cat fight to begin. The movie builds up to its inevitable climax of the black woman vs. white woman as they engage in an all-out grudge match, where you can guess the word "b*tch" is said several times over.
Because it's so derivative of other like thrillers of its kind, namely Fatal Attraction and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, I can't recommend Obsessed. It doesn't have an original bone in its body, but it's competently made and does have a few decent performances. Idris Alba is particularly strong as Derek and manages to become an appealing and sympathetic leading man. I give screenwriter David Loughery credit for giving Derek the intelligence and foresight to know what he should do in his situation. Oftentimes, the men in these types of movies make dumb mistakes just to service the plot, but we identify with Derek. I was also impressed with the chemistry between Alba and Knowles, who convince us they really are a married couple with a difficult problem.
As for Ali Larter, she's adequate as the villain, but she's more or less eye candy and you get the feeling any attractive blond could have played her role. The problem is the screenplay doesn't demand enough from her character. Lisa is merely the deranged blond trying to ruin Derek and Sharon's lives. There's no real motivation or history behind her behavior. Maybe that would have been asking for too much because the studio assumes younger audiences don't care about such things, that they only desire cheap melodrama and sensational violence.
Was I entertained watching this movie? Sort of, but I wanted it to be more ambitious and go beyond its potboiler structure. It was never boring and the actors are all attractive in their own way, but the movie doesn't really add up to more than a polished thriller that's been softened for the teenage crowd. At the very least, it's watchable, but it's hard to shrug off the notion it's just a slick and more expensive version of a daytime soap opera.
I know there's an audience for this, but will they take anything away from it? Call me old-fashioned, but I long for the days when thrillers took more chances with their subjects and really tried to say something. This one doesn't seem to even try.