23 May 2009

Movie Review: Obsessed


2009, 108mins, PG-13
Director: Steve Shill
Writer: David Loughery
Cast includes: Idris Elba, Beyonce Knowles, Ali Larter, Jerry O’Connell, Bonnie Perlman, Scout Taylor-Compton
Release Date: 24th April 2009

Those seeking vapid and calorie free entertainment should make a point of seeing “Obsessed”, a tacky and unoriginal thriller, featuring people who could do better. Idris Elba an actor of considerable talent and screen presence is wasted in a ridiculously generic role, whilst Ali Larter and Beyonce Knowles flounce ineffectively around him in a film that scores as neither sexy nor entertaining. For TV director Steve Shill it’s an unimpressive leap to feature film, granted the script he’s saddled with is just the genre driven into onerous nothingness, but his attempt to conjure up excitement or convincing relationships behind the camera isn’t much better. As with another film featuring Elba from last year “Prom Night”, the PG-13 rating that “Obsessed” has garnered does it more harm than good. After all when has an erotic thriller ever been done well on family friendly terms, if Paul Verhoeven was to see this he’d probably feel all his work from the 1990’s had been an epic waste.

Derek (Idris Elba) is living the American dream, a loving wife, a gorgeous son, a good job and a brand spanking new house, all making day to day life as sweet as it could be. One day arriving into the office he is greeted by new office temp Lisa (Ali Larter) a pretty and sprightly girl who instantly takes a liking to Derek, much to wife Sharon’s (Beyonce Knowles) dislike. However whilst Sharon’s insecurities initially seem premature, things take a turn for the worst when Lisa puts the moves on Derek at the Christmas party, and despite his persistent refute of her advances takes to stalking him. Derek begins to not only fear for the state of his marriage and office integrity, but as Lisa’s actions become stranger and more direct, the very safety of his family and home.

I’m a fan of Elba as an actor, his TV work is phenomenal and whilst he tends to become embroiled in big screen dogs, he at least manages to be the best thing about them. “Obsessed” doesn’t break the trend, it’s just another picture that Elba should have had the sense to leave be, the character written for him a bumbling one dimensional cliché, with Jerry O’Connell as a best friend. Nothing about that cocktail could have attracted him to the role, so we have to presume it’s a cash thing or he didn’t oppose the idea of getting groped by Ali Larter or Beyonce. Either way, “Obsessed” is just another in a line of efforts openly bashing his artistic credibility. As for the aforementioned actresses both are capable of better, Beyonce is usually no better than average but on this occasion her inconsistent performance is below the norm whilst Larter is happy to just take the femme fatale cliché and put a little extra insane into the mix. None of the actors are provided with a suitably in depth character but I detected little effort in their attempts to formulate the personalities into believable and engaging entities, the screenplay between Elba and Knowles particularly toxic.

The film’s attempts to conjure up excitement and tension are ill fated and occasionally laughable, any thriller attempting to coin suspense in the form of computer emoticons and tepid spam mail is surely a guaranteed fail. Sadly having been saddled with a PG-13 rating these are the most advanced weapons that Shill has been given the chance to work with, and the movies attempts at eliciting titillating imagery are little better. Openly marketed as a sex thriller in line with the likes of “Indecent Proposal” and “Basic Instinct” (Larter even has a resemblance to Sharon Stone) there is nothing that even approaches hot and heavy in “Obsessed”. Larter briefly strips down to her pants in a scene that’s so ineptly staged you’ll barely notice, and there’s a blurry sex sequence, as fully clothed and frigid as could be. Surely the teenage boys of the world who thought the MPAA had slipped up and granted them a PG-13 erotic experience with Beyonce and Larter will be disappointed. “Obsessed definitely ranks in the more innocent and cold side of the genre.

From a visual perspective the movie is glossy but very much a product of assembly line cinematography and the musical score is filled with high string notes designed to encourage tension, but sadly outdated by about 20 years. The screenwriter is David Loughery who wrote last year’s well played and reasonably intelligent “Lakeview Terrace”, a thriller also centered on family conflict but ultimately it also managed to generate entertainment value and a few thought provoking questions. “Obsessed” is so run of the mill and dumb that we would have to assume Loughery penned it over a lazy weekend, maybe deciding that he needed a new kitchen or entertainment system. Evidently he’s viewed a handful of genre highpoints, subtly ripped them off and stacked it into a formulaic and unimpressive story. Hardly a recipe for successful big screen entertainment. Also at 108 minutes this junk runs for far too long, its flaws being exaggerated by a runtime 20 minutes longer than it needs to be. I doubt a shorter cut of this inane story would grant it much more in the way of worth, but it might have at least made the unintentional amusement it sometimes generates more compact and digestible.

The finale is both predictable and lacking in anything remotely associated with creative filmmaking, a little bit of cat fighting followed by a thoroughly unsatisfying tying up of the loose ends. “Obsessed” is a tired and under cooked screenplay that has been turned into the simple minded and vacant product , a movie that is borderline worthless in nearly every department. The creative minds behind “Obsessed” should be utterly ashamed of themselves, their movie so lacking in innovation or competent assembly that having it on their CV might damage future career prospects. However if this is the level of dull output we can expect from said people, maybe their disappearance from the industry would be for the best.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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