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Obsessed

Director: Steve Shill
Cast: Idris Elba, Beyoncé Knowles, Ali Larter, Jerry O'Connell, Christine Lahti

(US DVD: 4 Aug 2009)

Don’t mess with Beyoncé. That seems to be the entire message of Obsessed, a tepid, lazy, Fatal Attraction remix released earlier this year. Although Beyoncé Knowles, the famed singer and sometimes actress has only a minor supporting part, she is a producer on the project and the movie is clearly intended as a vehicle to launch her into movie stardom.


Given the solid notices she received for Dream Girls and her portrayal of Etta James in Cadillac Records, it’s a shame that Beyoncé seems to have ruined what seemed like very smart choices for a singer trying to become a movie star, with such a trite, formulaic movie.


Obsessed opens as most thrillers seem to, with a young and in-love couple moving into a large, beautiful house in a bucolic suburb. This could be anywhere America, a bland and attractive middle-class dream. That the couple happens to be African-American instead of the usual European-American in such films does not change the formula.


Derrick (Idris Elba), the husband in our fable, is a successful businessman and Sharon (Beyoncé Knowles) his adoring beautiful wife. You know from the first 30 seconds, that inevitably something has to go terribly wrong.


That something takes the shape of Lisa (Ali Larter), a leggy blonde temp who shows up one day at Derrick’s job. Lisa, like any good screen vixen, favors tight short skirts and breathy come-ons with most males who cross her path. But Lisa also happens to be crazy.


She and Derrick casually flirt at the office but when Lisa makes a move on Derrick in the bathroom at the office Christmas party, he refuses. This sets off Lisa’s delusion that she and Derrick are carrying on an affair which leads to increasingly “obsessive” behavior including putting a rufi in his drink and attempting to rape him.


Derrick, the movie reassures us over and over again, is innocent in all of this (even though he forgets to tell his wife that the office temp showed up in his car wearing only her underwear). His faithfulness might be good for Derrick and Sharon’s marriage, but because the relationship between Lisa and Derrick has never been consummated, the movie lacks any real emotional punch or even the titillation of a love scene.


As a result, what we are left with is a mentally ill villain without legitimate motivation and a perfectly innocent husband. At least Glen Close’s character in Fatal Attraction had a right to feel slighted even if she took her revenge too far.


The red meat of the movie comes when Sharon (Beyoncé) finds out about Lisa and decides to take matters in her own hands. Sharon leaves a message for Lisa saying, “You think you’re crazy? Try ME bitch!” that gets the ball rolling. But the movie lacks even the guilty pleasure of a climactic ending fight because   Obsessed is so dull and lackluster that by the time the fight comes there is very little reason to care or to be surprised.


I don’t think I’m giving anything away by also noting that the movie even rips off the final moments of Fatal Attraction (though in this case the scene involves a chandelier rather than a bathtub).


Beyoncé is appealing and she tries hard to be convincing as the kick-ass hero of the movie’s ending, but overall her performance is pretty bland. Ali Larter attempts to do what she can with her part and has the requisite sex appeal, but it is Idris Elba who is the biggest disappointment. He seems bored throughout the entire movie (who could blame him?) and delivers many of his lines in a slow, barely-audible voice. It doesn’t help that the movie looks cheaply made, with odd, dull lighting throughout and flat dialogue.


In the end, there is no pay-off in Obsessed, except that this tedious, silly movie is finally over.

Rating:

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