The scorned-lover-goes-crazy genre has been revisited over and over again since Adrian Lyne’s film school staple, Fatal Attraction, hit theatre screens in ’87. Considered the template for the modern erotic thriller by many, the film has produced more rip-offs than you can shake a dead rabbit at due to its simplistic formula: married man meets woman, has one-night stand, dumps woman because he’s married, woman goes crazy and stalks man and his family. But what Fatal Attraction has that most of its predecessors are missing is actual tension and moral conflict. Obsessed, the latest in a long line of supposed sexually charged thrillers, manages to adapt the basic premise well enough and attempt different variations on it but it doesn’t understand the mechanics of how to be unpredictable.
Idris Elba stars as Derek, a business man who has it all: a lucrative career as an asset manager at a successful firm, a beautiful new house, a trophy wife – Sharon (Beyonce Knowles) – and a toddler son. This is normally the part of the synopsis where I’d say something like, “But he threw it all away for a fling with the new office temp, Lisa (Ali Larter),” except it doesn’t quite happen like that. And that’s where the film’s problems begin. In cliché fashion, Lisa shows up and manages to weasel her way into becoming Derek’s secretary but the screenplay doesn’t convey why, out of an office full of men (both single and married), she’s attracted to him. Is it his looks? The lifestyle? The money? All we know is that she doesn’t need any return of affection to become completely – wait for it – obsessed with someone she barely knows. And when I say no affection is shown back to her, I mean it. Unlike similar films, there is no cheating going on here, which means that there’s never a question of whether or not he deserves any of this (the one thing that could’ve possibly given the audience a reason to invest in the film). Yet, you still kind of want something bad to happen to Derek because he’s a complete moron. He never mentions the situation to his wife or anyone before it’s too late and out of control.
The rest of the film is filled with downright stupid characters – such as Scout Taylor-Compton’s babysitter character (that’s a real stretch for her) who’s dumb enough to let Lisa into the house, a woman she doesn’t know, and take her word for it that Sharon gave her permission to enter and visit their sleeping son – and brain-dead moments (after spending money on a new security system, they don’t activate it so that Lisa can sneak in the house and start the third act… WOW).
Sony’s 1080p Blu-Ray transfer is too good for a film of this caliber, though it has its weak points. Colors are rich and grain is low; however, shadows tend to drown out detail in certain spots and indoor scenes tend to be less impressive than the outdoor scenes, which is a shame considering there’s about 10 times as many indoor as there are outdoor ones. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is wasted on the film, as there aren’t many moments that call for booming surround sound. The track sounds somewhat subdued, almost as if it were recorded decades ago and not properly remastered. Dialogue and sound effected are clear but muted.
I don’t think anyone expected Obsessed to be the second coming of the erotic thriller but in order to fit into that genre, there would have to be an air of sexuality to the film to begin with. Completely predictable with terrible dialogue, a career killing performance by Knowles that matches Mariah Carrey’s turn in Glitter and manly looking female body doubles, Obsessed could’ve been a tolerable film if only it had been sleazy or gone camp. But, as is, it stands as one of the most boring, unsexually charged thrillers of the decade.
Playing Nicely Together (15:37) – A fairly generic making-of fluff piece, that stuns viewers’ intelligence more than it informs. The producers, director and screenwriter all confirm my suspicions: they thought they were making something really special here, almost like they’ve never seen Fatal Attraction. Beyonce induces laughter more than a few times, including an interview where she claims Elba brings out the best in her acting. Sounds to me like she has a bright future in stand-up!
Girl Fight (11:13) – A featurette that explores the climax of the film, which is a cat fight between Lisa and Sharon. The choreographer and director claim that real life cat fights aren’t very violent, so they juiced up the one in the film. Apparently, they’ve never witnessed one in person because there’s no hair pulling in theirs whatsoever.
Obsessed: Dressed To Kill (9:30) – Costume Designer Maya Lieberman talks about the actors’ wardrobes and what significance they bear (truth be told, it focuses on Beyonce’s attire more than anyone else’s). I’d like to say it’s a crash course in Art of Cinema 101 but that would be giving it too much credit.