Tuesday, August 11, 2009

DVD Views: Obsessed

Obsessed **
Directed By: Steve Shill.
Written By: David Loughery.
Starring: Idris Elba (Derek), Beyoncé Knowles (Sharon Charles), Ali Larter (Lisa), Jerry O'Connell (Ben), Bonnie Perlman (Marge), Christine Lahti (Reese), Nathan Myers (Kyle Charles), Nicolas Myers (Kyle Charles), Matthew Humphreys (Patrick), Scout Taylor-Compton (Samantha).

Obsessed wants nothing more to be a modern day Fatal Attraction. It follows the formula of that movie so closely, that I think the writer of that movie should demand some royalties on this one. When it opened in 1987, Fatal Attraction became one of the biggest hits of the year, and somewhere along the way the film picked up several Oscar nominations, and gained classic status. Don’t ask me why. While I think it’s a fine little thriller, it is hardly a great film. Director Adrian Lyne has done much better films than that one (Jacob’s Ladder, Lolita and Unfaithful to name but three). But even if Fatal Attraction is not a great movie, Obsessed still cannot quite measure up to it. As good as they are, Idris Elba is no Michael Douglas, Beyonce Knowles is no Anne Archer and Ali Larter is certainly no Glenn Close. Fatal Attraction was not exactly a very original movie when it came out 22 years ago, and Obsessed seems even staler all these years later. But my biggest problem with the movie, is that filmmakers seem to want to make everything even more one dimensional in this film than they were in 1987.

The movie is about Elba’s Derek, a rich businessman (they make vague references to deals, but I have no idea what he is actually supposed to be doing), who is married to Sharon (Beyonce), and has a young son, Kyle, who he adores. They seem like the perfect family. One day Lisa (Larter) shows up at his office as a temp. She makes some deals, and ends up working as Derek’s secretary, something that displeases Lisa, as at one point she was Derek’s secretary, and knows what could happen. Derek and Lisa do some innocent flirting in the office, but nothing that out of line. Derek thinks he’s just trying to be nice, but Lisa takes it way too seriously. At the Christmas party, she tries to seduce him, and fails, and later, she will show up in his car with no clothes on, to try again. Again, she fails. But she does not give up. She is obsessed (it’s the title, get it?) with Derek, and thinks that he is in love with her, and plans to leave his wife. He wants none of these things, but it does not stop Lisa from coming back again and again to try and get what she wants.

I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime in the past few decades, studio executives decided that audiences want everything in their movies to be black and white. If you remember Fatal Attraction, you will remember that Douglas does actually sleep with Close at the beginning of the film. His wife is away, and he takes advantage of the freedom to have what he thinks is a fun one night stand, only to end up getting far more than he bargained for (Close actually ends up pregnant with Douglas’s child if you remember correctly). By making Derek in this movie completely innocent of any real wrong doing – just the object of obsession of a crazy woman, it removes some of the complexity of the story, and to be honest, much of the interest. Close may be deranged in that film, but she certainly does have reason to be angry with Douglas. In this film, Lisa is just a nutcase from beginning to end, and somehow that just is not nearly as interesting.

The performances in the movie are probably about as good as you could expect. Elba has always projected a kind of quiet, stern dignity, and he does so again here, and it serves him well. Beyonce is not really given all that much to do, except get angry a lot (it strikes me as odd that she is one of the producers of the film. Does she not realize that the role she wants is Larter’s?). Larter, even if she can never hope to match Glenn Close, does do a very convincing job of being a nutcase. I was hoping at some point the fact that Derek and Sharon are African American, and Larter is white, would come up, but everyone seems to ignore it in the film. Once again, an opportunity to add some complexity to the movie is lost. The filmmakers are simply interested in making a straight ahead thriller. There’s nothing wrong with that really, except for the fact that Obsessed is not all that thrilling. Yes, it held my interest, and I never really was bored by the film, but I continually wondered what the point of it all was. Why did anyone decide that this film should be made? I honestly have no clue. Obsessed could have been a lot better had anyone involved in making the film showed any ambition. Because they didn’t, the film is what it is, and nothing more. Pity.

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