Thursday, April 30, 2009

Nothing to 'obsess' over

If you want a laugh, check out “Obsessed,” not that the film is a comedy. You’ll be laughing, but at the film, not with it.

“Obsessed” stars Idris Elba (currently on “The Office”) as a successful asset manager with a beautiful wife (Beyoncé Knowles) and baby who is fending off the pursuits of an attractive, but delusional office temp (Ali Larter, “Heroes”). This is a “Fatal Attraction” rip off without a single original moment in it.

The minute Larter’s temptress comes on screen it is clear exactly where this movie is going. A movie being formulaic isn’t necessarily a problem. We watch romantic comedies because we know in the end the couple will get together. It is the journey that is key, not the destination. In “Obsessed” that journey is pedestrian and at times boring.

Ultimately, the film’s raison d'être is the inevitable throw down between Larter and Knowles and it is one heck of a fight, but it is a 90-minute wait before you get there. The fight also seems out of tone with the rest of the film. Suddenly, Knowles' character seems like something out of a blaxploitation film.

The film is riddled with cheesy dialogue, but unlike something like the “Scream” movies, it is clear this isn’t meant to be a self-satire. Until the final fight scene where the film gives over to total camp it is evident that the film was attempting to be a serious drama and it fails at that. The inconsistent tone is just one of its problems.

The acting in the film ranges from good to adequate. Elba is quite strong in the lead. He has a definite screen presence and gives more credibility to his lines than they deserve. With a better film he could really shine.

Larter is good at playing crazy, but her performance is fairly one note. Knowles, who also was a producer, is fine, but it seems like she took the role solely for that final fight because she doesn’t truly come alive until those scenes.

The direction by Steve Shill is workman like, but he does create some suspense in places, even if it isn’t sustained for long. With a better script this could’ve been a decent thriller, so if we must put the blame for this film on someone it is screenwriter David Loughrey.

Loughrey writes script by the numbers, if you have any doubt compare “Obsessed” to last year’s “Lakeview Terrace,” which he also scripted. Both films center on a married couple being terrorized by someone who is mentally unstable and ends up in a confrontation that would seem more appropriate for a slasher movie.

As with his script for “Lakeview Terrace,” Loughrey had an intriguing premise with the potential to raise serious issues, in this case that men have to fight harder to prove sexual harassment. Loughrey’s script flirts with the issue, but settles for ham-fisted exploitation dialogue and cliché scenes.

This is a bad film, but for some people it will be so bad it is good. Let me be perfectly clear, don’t waste your money seeing it in theaters. Once it is on DVD and you’ve got nothing better to do on a rainy afternoon, perhaps lower your standards and rent it. You will laugh for all the wrong reasons.


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