The PG-13 rating tells those with prurient interests exactly what level of sleaze and/or nudity they can expect from Obsessed, which opened to a whopping $28.5 million earlier this year after a savvy marketing job by Sony Pictures genre arm Screen Gems. A crazy female stalker flick loosely in the vein of The Temp, Fatal Attraction and Disclosure, the movie coasts along for a while courtesy of committed performances from Ali Larter and Idris Elba — the former of whom really gives good, flinty-eyed crazy — but eventually comes unglued due to some wrongheaded narrative choices, certainly, but largely a terrible performance by Beyoncé Knowles.
Derek Charles (Elba), an executive vice president and rising star at a Los Angeles financial advisement firm, has a seemingly perfect life, anchored by a nice new house and a cute young son with his wife Sharon (Knowles). But when a new temp, Lisa Sheridan (Larter), shows up and develops a one-sided crush on him, the normally accomodating Derek’s life becomes an increasingly dangerous series of rejections and bewildered denials, putting in jeopardy all that he loves and for which he’s worked.
After listening in on his phone calls with Sharon, Lisa puts the moves on Derek at a company Christmas party. He spurns her aggressive bathroom stall advances, so Lisa “apologizes” for her behavior by revealing her weird (formal?) taste in undergarments (above). Derek ponders laying out his predicament to Human Resources, but Lisa abruptly leaves the company, seemingly letting off him the hook. She next turns up at a business conference, though, passing herself off as Derek’s wife, spiking his drink, and then overdosing on pills in his bed when he again explains that he doesn’t want to be with her. The police (in the form of Christine Lahti, thanklessly embodying a thick-headed detective) are called in to investigate and a more languorous than advisable separation occurs between Derek and Sharon, before the film’s other women-folk come to realize what Derek has been insisting all along: Lisa is bat-shit crazy. Things finally get personal in a cat-fight finale, allowing for Knowles to sassily have her way with a variety of wince-inducing quips.
As mentioned, Larter gives good crazy, and her chemistry with Elba — who essentially plays a nice guy whose friendly nature allows himself to be put in situations that aren’t good for him — is top-shelf, creating a pinch of honest grey area in what is otherwise very conventional genre product. Unfortunately, the third side of this triangle is Knowles, and she’s flat-out awful, all telegraphed line readings and one-note histrionics. Especially awful is a scene in which Sharon first finds out about Lisa’s advances; Knowles goes all clipped delivery and ethnic-y, which is out of step with her character up to that point, and feels insulting, like a white actress trying to channel what she thinks is acceptably “black” and appealing to African-American audiences. It’s undeniable that there’s an undercurrent of racial commentary and tension to the film (a white woman trying to “steal” a black man), but this nonsense doesn’t make anyone look good.
Further not helping matters are some narrative contrivances (a Christmas party that explicitly bans spouses? another temp who chats up Lisa and helpfully passes along crucial personal information about Derek after Lisa has both left the company and endured a much-publicized hospital stay?) that really show their seams. Watching only three-fifths of a movie and then just turning it off may seem weird, but that’s pretty much what’s advisable here; even the much-touted showdown between Larter and Knowles at film’s end plays as too spread out, and largely unsatisfying.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case with carved-out spindles over the disc space in order to use less plastic, Obsessed comes to DVD presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, with English and French language Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio tracks and optional subtitles in the same languages. Three supplemental featurettes comprise the disc’s slate of bonus material. The first runs 16 minutes, and is a more general, EPK-style making-of overview; the latter two are a bit more interesting. Clocking in at 11 minutes is an overview of the movie’s end-game girl-fight sequence, including lots of talk from stunt coordinator Lance Gilbert, who explains how they had to pare down the script’s original vision, which spread out over much of the house. There’s some moderately cool behind-the-scenes material here, but more insight from Larter, Knowles or even the female stunt players themselves would have been a welcome inclusion. Running around 10 minutes, meanwhile, is a “Dressed to Kill” featurette, which includes some chat time with costume designer Maya Lieberman, but is really just a catch-all for everything having to do with the look of the movie, and therefore includes interview tidbits with cinematographer Ken Seng and production designer Jon Gary Steele, among other figures. Rounding things out are previews for First Sunday, Termination Point, Prom Night, the forthcoming theatrical remake of The Stepfather, and a dozen other Sony home video releases. C (Movie) C+ (Disc)