Screen Gems // 2009 // 108 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // August 17th, 2009
How far would you go to protect yours?
I'm not going to knock Beyoncé. Sure I have no interest in her music, or her acting career, but I give her points for hustle. Everyone knows that the key to a successful business is diversification, and Ms. Knowles has parlayed her brand as a singer into acting roles involving singing, and, with Obsessed, into roles that don't require singing. It's a steep hill to climb, and although Obsessed (Blu-ray) is a pointless waste of time, it shows she has the stuff to make a career in acting, even if this film might sink it before she can take it anywhere.
Derek (Idris Elba, American Gangster) is a successful funds manager who seems to have it all. He met his beautiful wife Sharon (Beyoncé, Cadillac Records) while she was working as his assistant, but now she stays home with their young son. Everything is going right in Derek's life until a temp worker, Lisa (Ali Larter, Heroes), shows up and begins to flirt with Derek. When he doesn't return the affection, things start to go wrong and she begins to stalk him.
Can you say "watered-down Fatal Attraction?" When that film came out twenty years ago it was decried as a conservative backlash against women in the workplace, pitting the ruthless career woman against the domestic mother. Obsessed plays as a repeat of the same basic formula, pitting the career-oriented (not to mention white and blond) Ali Larter against the stay-at-home Beyoncé. However, instead of a championing of mothers against career women, Obsessed is really a radical critique of marriage. I know that sounds shocking, but the film bears it out. Derek is a sweet, loyal husband, and Sharon is a devoted, caring wife; however, as soon as Lisa gets up to her tricks, all their trust and loyalty go out the window. Derek obviously wants to tell Sharon what's going on, but he's afraid she'll take it the wrong way; when she does finally learn what's up, it looks like Derek had something to hide. It isn't until Sharon is willing to kill that equilibrium can be restored in the relationship. If that's not an indictment of the fragility of communication in marriage, I don't know what is.
Okay, all that was a bunch of hooey that I came up with while watching Obsessed. Why, you might ask, did I come up with such an elaborate argument during the film? Well, because Obsessed was one of the more boring films I've had to watch in a darn long time. The film is 108 minutes long when it should be 80 and takes forever to get anything done. Instead of an economical introduction to Derek and his life, we get 25 minutes of Derek's perfect life before anything even starts to hint at maybe going wrong. It's another half hour before anything really happens with Lisa, and once she's revealed as a total psycho it's hard to care about anyone in the film. I know there's supposed to be some tension over what Lisa might do, or how Derek and Sharon will react, but Lisa isn't that inventive, and Derek and Sharon are so thick I could care less about whether they stay married. The film meanders along to a climax that is both predictable and poorly executed, with the least interesting fight scene I've come across in ages.
There's also something amiss with the rating of Obsessed. I assume the PG-13 was an attempt to maximize the audience by appealing to Ms. Knowles' teenage fanbase (if she even has one; I wouldn't know). However, a thriller that's supposed to be based on sex and seduction can't really open its wings and fly with a PG-13 tied to its leg. A little more naughtiness might have made the film a little more tolerable.
It really didn't have to be this way. Perhaps with its central idea of a marriage threatened from the outside Obsessed could never be more than a generic thriller, but at least it could have been an interesting generic thriller. I would have loved to see Beyoncé and Ali Larter switch roles, with Ali playing the devoted wife and mother and Beyoncé as the interloper. Then at least there would have been some interracial tension, which is more tension than the film has now.
Although the script is a total mess, the actors never give it less than their best. Idris Elba effectively shows that although he's a healthy, virile man, he can look without touching at other women. Beyoncé is fine as Sharon; the role doesn't offer much of a chance to be anything but jealous, but she handles the more emotional scenes believably and the action-oriented stuff pretty well. Ali Larter, however, steals the show as Lisa. She does an excellent job seeming nice and innocently interested in Derek, but when the gloves come off she goes absolutely psycho without skipping a beat. Obviously her role on Heroes was good practice.
As a Blu-ray release, Obsessed is okay, but not spectacular. During some of the film's brighter moments, colors pop and detail is high. In the darker moments detail is swallowed up by iffy black levels. The audio fares a little better, but because most of the film is dialogue driven there isn't much for the TrueHD track to do. Supplements are also a little light. We get three featurettes: one is an EPK-style look at the film's production, another looks at the film's final fight scene, and the final one focuses on the film's wardrobe.
There is pretty much nothing to recommend Obsessed. Although the actors get a pass, the rest of the production scraps the bottom of the barrel in search of cheap thrills mimicking a twenty-year-old film. Even the film's hi-def presentation isn't much to write home about. I give credit to Beyoncé for trying, but Obsessed may kill her acting career before it's had much of a chance to start.
Guilty of being boring.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Screen Gems
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (French)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13