2009 | Director: Steve Shill (“Big Love,” “Deadwood”) | Writer: David Loughery (“The Three Musketeers”)
It’s either a positive sign of progressive racial integration in America or a harmful instance of ignorance that skin color isn’t mentioned once in the amateurish, “Fatal Attraction”-lite thriller “Obsessed.” I went in expecting an hour-and-a-half-long race war ending in a chick fight, but I was stunned to discover that the film—though indeed ending in a chick fight—is instead an actual, honest-to-goodness movie about a psycho lady attempting to break up a loving couple. Sure, some characters are black and some are white, but that fact plays no role in the pigmentation-irrelevant events of the film. It may well be that “Obsessed” is some sort of comment on the white infrastructure’s capitalist abuse of the black man as a commodity, but as a white male of suburban middle-class gentry, I can’t presume to tell you if that’s the case. As a mediocre film critic, however, I can tell you that “Obsessed” kind of sucks for a psycho-lady thriller.
The film recounts the fictitious adventures of Derek (Idris Elba of HBO’s “The Wire”) and housewife Sharon (Beyonce Knowles), parents of the worst baby actor in history, as they traverse the choppy waters of Marital Trust, though in a much more boring manner than I just stated. The first two acts follow Derek as he crests on his successes at assets management firm Gage Bendix (why they didn’t go with Brox Yavellstein or Hulz Manquip we’ll never know), only partially-aware that he is being stalked, psycho-lady-style, by psycho-lady temp Lisa (Ali Larter, “Varsity Blues”). Meanwhile, he touches base every now and then with Sharon, who warns him between diaper changes that he’d better not be employing any hot, psycho-lady temps, because if he did, there’d be heck to pay. Of course, all of that happens, since that’s the plot of the movie.
Where “Obsessed” falls apart is exactly the beginning of the third act, after Lisa has successfully convinced Sharon that Derek has been staying after work for extramarital sexual intercourse. At this juncture, the viewer is jarringly forced to watch Sharon become the main character, even after following Derek through every painstaking moment for the previous hour and fifteen minutes. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if Sharon wasn’t a hateful, untrusting nag of a character during that time; but since she has in fact been established as a suspicious shrew, why should one care that she seeks justice against Lisa, who, despite being a psycho lady, is an infinitely more interesting match for Derek? It also doesn’t help that Sharon is played by Knowles, whose leaden performance evokes Katherine Hepburn sometime well after her death in 1994.
After all that—watching the normally-wonderful Elba wasted on such a narrative gaffe, cringing every time Knowles screams indignantly at her innocent husband, pausing in breathless anticipation every time director Steve Shill holds a beat too long on someone’s blank face—it’s no wonder that I wasn’t wowed by the climactic chick fight. There’s some satisfaction in watching Beyonce beat the tar out of a white she-devil for trying to steal her man, but that satisfaction isn’t based on the success of a well-wrought story. It’s a shame, because every stride the film makes in the name of integration is erased by a step backwards for the art of filmmaking.
Rating: Two of Five Stars