Film review by: Witney Seibold
In the world of Steve Shill’s infidelity thriller “Obsessed,” all women fall into one of two clearly-delineated camps: they are either like Ali Larter’s character Lisa – sex-obsessed, psychopathic gold-digging vamps, so hellbent on romantic and sexual ideals that they’re willing to lie and kill to get the man of their dreams; or they are like Beyoncé Knowles’ character Sharon – controlling, emasculating housewives who resent their husbands’ social lives, and are jealous of every female who drifts into their husbands’ orbit.
“Obsessed” was produced by Knowles, and, I fear, was intended as a testimony to female empowerment; Perhaps Knowles thought that a murderous and controlling defense of one’s home and husband’s fidelity was the best way for a woman to assert herself in a modern world. I warn the teenage girls who see “Obsessed:” Do no be fooled. Neither the Larter character or the Knowles character are good role models. See anything with Meryl Streep instead. Heck, even Lara Croft is a better role model than these two.
Those same teen girls ought not to take the men in “Obsessed” very seriously either. Either they are like the husband character, weak, mealymouthed, easily manipulated, and too dumb to deal with simple human relationships, or they are like the officeplace overgrown fratboys, played in this film by Jerry O’Connell and Bruce McGill. That is to say, horny, misogynistic assholes. I have to hand it to O’Connell, though. He seemed to be the only actor who knew exactly what kind of performance a film like this needed.
I warn teenage girls specifically because “Obsessed” is bafflingly rated PG-13. The story is about a white vampish woman (Larter) who works as a temp for a high-powered black investor named Derek (ubiquitous British character actor Idris Elba). She is likable enough for Derek to be nice to her once or twice, but she becomes dangerously obsessed with him, insisting that their casual and friendly relationship is a full-blown love affair. Derek’s wife (Knowles), jealous of every woman that talks to Derek, and upon hearing he has a pretty blonde temp in his workplace, insists she be fired. She is incensed when Derek, rationally, does not fire her.
Derek, however, never explains anything to anyone, so as the vamp’s stalkeriness continues to escalate to the point where she’s following him on business meetings. She sends sexy pictures of herself to Derek, and wears sexy lingerie to work under her coat. She’s white, he’s black, so there’s plenty of racially charged erotic tension. Well… there’s the setup for tension; it’s not actually all that tense. There’s a scene where it’s implied that she’s drugged Derek and raped him. The word “rape,” however, is never used.
You would think with sexual tension, the promise of affairs, and the potential of woman-on-man rape, that “Obsessed” would have the courage to stray into the smuttier corners of the familiar “Fatal Attraction” ripoff, or at least into the overheated potboiler territory of an early-day Jackie Collins novel. But no, the film is rated PG-13, making for a less exciting, less violent, sexually neutered, kid-friendly film that, let’s be honest, kids should not be seeing. It’s adult material made safe for kids. By rating it PG-13, the MPAA has made a morally irresponsible move.
Once again, I must indicate that I don’t want an R rating just so I can have the prurient thrill of seeing boobs and blood. I think “Obsessed” should have been rated R because the sexually charged material demanded it; the breasts and blood would have made a better, more appropriate trash thriller.
But let’s put all of this aside and get to the real issue of “Obsessed:” How was the catfight?
Clearly “Obsessed” was put into production merely so there could be a violent, hairpulling, “Dynasty”-esque battle royale between Knowles and her unfortunate costar. The catfight, I must report, was actually pretty thrilling. Early in “Obsessed,” we see ominous shots of a weak attic floor, a perilous balcony, and a glass coffee table. All of those things come into pay in the film’s finale. Knowles gets in a well-placed headbutt, and Larter screams like a tiger giving birth. A 2×4 gets a great cameo. For those precious few moments, “Obsessed” is actually kind of entertaining.