British actor Idris Elba is probably best known for playing the entrepreneurial drug kingpin Stringer Bell in The Wire. He’s a tall, good looking, very centred actor, who gives the impression that he’s always in control.
In Obsessed he plays – ahem – Derek, a businessman whose investment firm is flourishing, and who seems to be on the fast track to success. In fact he’s already there: he’s wealthy, happily married – to his former secretary – and proud father to a one-year-old baby boy.
Enter Lisa (Ali Larter). A skinny blonde with get-ahead eyes and enough brains to back it up, she would seem to be the ideal temp – assuming you’re a typical bloke, that is.
I think you know where this is going. Lisa sets her sights on Derek. Derek doesn’t mind the flirtation, and even allows himself to partake in some bump and grind at the office Christmas Party – but when Lisa practically ravishes him in the gents’ loo he suddenly remembers he’s a happily married man and scuttles home to Sharon (Beyonce Knowles) with his tail between his legs.
He’s all set to get the temp (as in “temptress”, presumably) fired, but she quits before he gets the chance. Problem solved… until she decides to model her lingerie in the office parking lot (a ridiculous sequence that must have been mortifying for Larter to play). Now he’s really alarmed. And he’s right to be. Lisa doesn’t just want his body, she’s got it stuck in her head that he wants to marry her too.
A throwback to the so-called “yuppie-in-peril” suspense thriller that were popular in the late 80s/early 90s, Obsessed owes a lot to Fatal Attraction in particular. In that film, you will recall, Michael Douglas had the poor judgment to do the dirty over the washing up with Glenn Close, who decided she wasn’t going to let him forget it.
Does it reflect changing social mores that Derek doesn’t succumb to Lisa’s wiles? Are twenty first century men any less likely to play away? I doubt it. And the movie is worse off because of it.
Fatal Attraction wasn’t exactly a beacon of feminist enlightenment, but at least Douglas shared in the guilt. Here Derek commands the moral high ground. Admittedly he is less than 100 percent forthcoming with his wife, but even so he has little enough to be ashamed of. In fact the only time he and Lisa have sex is when she’s spiked his iced water with a date rape drug. (I tried to find statistics for this form of crime and came up empty-handed.)
If Derek is an innocent victim, targeted by Lisa and unfairly blamed by Sharon and the female cop who investigates (Christine Lahti), where does that leave the temptress? On her way to the booby hatch, that’s where.
Ali Larter (from TV’s Heroes) can’t do much to make Lisa remotely believable. Not to say that delusional and obsessive stalkers don’t exist, but I’ll bet not too many of them look like this.
Director Steve Shill comes from TV too – Dexter and The Tudors, among many others – but he doesn’t do anything to elevate the tedious, predictable script by David Loughery. Unlike Loughery’s previous credit, Lakeview Terrace, Obsessed makes no mention of race, not even when Lisa and Sharon square up for the inevitable cat-fight climax.
Despite its all-round mediocrity the movie clicked big time with US audiences, raking in considerably more than three of the five films nominated for best picture this year.
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