click to enlarge
Directed by Steve Shill
For a sexy thriller in the Fatal Attraction
turns out to be surprisingly sex-free. Past unofficial remakes of Attraction
, like the semi-hilarious 2002 teen version Swimfan
, have certainly watered down the story, arguing that a movie about a crazy-infatuated stalker need not involve any messy infidelity. Obsessed
scrubs object of obsession Derek (Idris Elba) so clean that he appears to be the only pure man in a glossy den of temptation, a recession-proof financial outfit (we know this thanks to a near-record number of loving aerial establishing shots). Though his coworkers drink hard, talk about strippers, and include Jerry O'Connell, Derek stays above the fray, happily married to Sharon (Beyonce Knowles), with whom he has an infant son. The only hint of sketchiness is that Sharon used to be his secretary.
This is supposedly why Derek isn't allowed to keep any female underlings, and why he's hesitant to mention Lisa (Ali Larter), a temp who takes clear interest in him. Her flirtation seems harmless — at least in relation to Elba, who's so buttoned-up that he can barely feign spontaneity drumming his steering wheel — until it, you know, escalates into sexy-thriller territory: come-ons, delusions, threats. Beyonce, who has floated in and out of the movie for the first hour or so, must go on the defensive. And the best defense, in this case, is a furious, furious offense.
Of course, Obsessed
prepares us for a domestic battle royale from its first scene. Over the opening credits, the happy family moves into their new high-ceiling multi-story mini-mansion, and the place comes with a complete set of proverbial guns on the wall in the form of portentous furniture: there's a big lamp, of course, and that glass coffee table looks a little fragile, and hey, the attic appears to have some loose floorboards; check, check, check.
The eventual lady-on-lady smackdown functions like money effects and stunt shots in an action movie: ten minutes of enjoyable stupidity that you can apparently build a marketing campaign around. My audience sounded primed to see Beyonce morph into Sasha Fierce and deal out righteous vengeance; they giggled and applauded a little every time that fiery look came into her eyes. But Beyonce's rise from victimhood is less satisfying when Sharon seems so clearly spoiling for a fight from the start. Because Derek lacks any real weakness apart from not wanting to cause a scene or worry his wife, Sharon comes off as vaguely hectoring and a little self-righteous, and the movie seems to more or less approve, even as it makes Derek's relative innocence unambiguously clear.
After a string of forgettable roles trading on her looks and/or voice, Knowles showed startling promise as an angry, strung-out Etta James in last year's Cadillac Records
, which Knowles co-produced, is regressive in more ways than one. Besides being schlocky (albeit totally slick and pretty in that polished-TV sort of way), it has a weird, almost Biblical sense of social conservatism behind her repurposed anger. When Sharon is angry with Derek, she makes it clear that he must be punished — kicked out of the house for, essentially, not letting her know about some advances that he rebuffed — but also that they will not divorce, because her family doesn't do that; and when Sharon kicks into vengeful-mom mode, she seems more energized — happier, almost — than she has for the rest of the movie. Even more excessive: Lisa's main confidante and enabler is the office queen who, the movie implies, gossips too much to know right from wrong; a wittier movie might've made him more explicitly appreciative of Lisa's obvious camp potential.
's camp potential remains only partially realized; it has too much confidence in the domestic drama portion of the show, and not enough wildness. It's interesting mainly as possible evidence that "Ring the Alarm" didn't exactly get this rage out of Beyonce's system — and that she ought to find more productive ways of working with it. I humbly suggest Sasha Fierce: Tomb Raider