Movie review by Greg Carlson

A worthless and surprisingly chaste rehash of “Fatal Attraction” by way of “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” “The Temp,” and “Disclosure,” veteran television director Steve Shill’s “Obsessed” is as forgettable as its bland title. “Obsessed” trades on all kinds of uncomfortable racial and gender stereotypes without attempting to say anything enlightening or even thought-provoking on the subject at hand. Despite the talents of several top notch performers, the movie sticks to its retrograde formula, which exists strictly in the service of setting up a clawing, scratching catfight in which one, and only one, outcome is possible. Anyone who sees the movie’s trailer, which telegraphs the whole shebang including the climax, will have no good reason to sit through the entire feature.

Ali Larter plays Lisa, a conniving, completely bonkers office assistant who sets her sights on Idris Elba’s Derek before he even has a chance to step off the elevator at his Los Angeles investment banking firm. Derek is a model husband and family man, but we learn that his wife Sharon (Beyonce Knowles in an embarrassing turn) was – once upon a time – his secretary, which presumably suggests that he might be inclined to workplace flirtations. Sharon instantly senses Lisa’s slatternly intentions and demands she be fired, but before Derek can distance himself from the loony Lisa, she has manipulated him six ways to Sunday.

Unlike “Fatal Attraction,” the characters in “Obsessed” do not consummate the forbidden relationship that develops, despite the intense passes of the predatory Lisa. From a Christmas party grope in a bathroom stall to a lingerie flash in Derek’s car, Lisa throws herself at the unavailable husband and father, and he resists her each time. Ali Larter does the best she can with a cardboard character, but Lisa has no motivation beyond lust for the dazzling array of shenanigans she pulls. When Christine Lahti finally enters the frame as a weary detective trying to get the straight story, one is compelled to shout back at the screen, warning her not to waste her time.

Most suckers who see the movie will go to watch Beyonce, but fans of “The Wire” suffering serious withdrawal will attend for the chance to spend some time with Elba, whose Stringer Bell would never tolerate the nonsense afoot in “Obsessed.” Elba deftly navigates most of the movie’s pitfalls, underplaying many of the scenes in which his less seasoned co-stars crank it up all the way. Knowles is given mouthfuls of silliness meant to convey wellsprings of angry, poisonous scorn, but her character is a minor plot contrivance – practically an afterthought – until the fistfight in the final reel shifts the focus to her pugilistic prowess.

“Obsessed” is riddled with genre chestnuts, including an opening montage in which Knowles and Elba explore the attic of their new home and notice that the flimsy plaster of the ceiling below could not support a person’s weight – a guarantee that the movie’s climax will return to that very spot. Had Shill not taken the whole thing so seriously, the audience might have been able to have a good time throughout the movie’s duration, instead of the fleeting moments when something moronic elicits a derisive chuckle.

This review was also published in the High Plains Reader the week of 4/27/09.

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