I guess Beyonce Knowles released a “surprise album” on iTunes on Friday. They didn’t announce it in advance or anything and word spread like word spreads on the internet and holy shit it became the number one selling digital file album of such and such. Everybody lost their shit and wrote headlines and everything. Amazing! Revolutionary! It may seem like a clever attention-getting gimmick for a star of her size to not bother with marketing, but here’s the truth: her husband Jay-Z knew through the Illuminati that I had just watched Beyonce’s Christmas-time thriller OBSESSED and was about to put up a review. So she knew she had to rush the album’s release in order to take advantage of that extra spotlight. Your welcome, Beyonce.
Like in DIE HARD, the shit goes down at an office Christmas party for some L.A. financial something-or-other firm. But instead of faux-terrorists taking over the building it’s a stalker executive assistant trying to take a married man. Lisa (Ali Larter from FINAL DESTINATION) is a temp who’s been breathing all over Derek Charles (Idris Elba, GHOST RIDER’S SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE), listening in on his phone calls, finding out too much about him, putting him in uncomfortable situations. The camera makes her seductive, zeroing in on her crossed legs when she sits near him, her glossed lips when she smiles at him.
But unlike most of the guys in these types of movies he never bites. He’s happily married to Sharon (Beyonce Knowles), has a baby son at home, just moved into a new house with a mirror above the bed, and despite devil-on-his-shoulder encouragement from his douchey best bud at the office (if you guess Jerry O’Connell you guessed right) he’s not stupid enough to throw that all away just so he can fuck this skinny white girl from work. A commendable lack of thinking with his dick.
Still, it’s obvious that he notices and appreciates the attention. That’s fine, but his mistake is not doing enough to shut her down in the beginning. It’s only when she tries to hump him in the men’s room during the party and later when she gets in his car and takes her dress off that he starts telling her to cool it. Even then he makes one of those stupid mistakes that’s frustrating to watch in a movie: he keeps not telling his wife what’s going on. He’ll almost bring it up and then pussy out, maybe believing it’s his fault or that his wife will think there’s more to it, since he had a past as the office horndog. But, you know, every incident he doesn’t mention is another strike against him when Lisa inevitably pretends they’re having the affair he rejected.
It’s a really generic treatment of an admittedly effective formula of FATAL ATTRACTION inspired thrillers. That the victims are a black upper class family instead of Michael Douglas is interesting, though. Race is never mentioned at all, so the same script could be done with a white family, they’d just have a less smoothed out on the R&B tip song during the Christmas morning present-opening montage. But it wouldn’t work the same. There are unavoidable connotations to a white woman trying to steal a black man from his black wife. The tension exists even if it’s not underlined in dialogue.
The values are very standard for this type of movie, pretty primal. It’s about a man’s fear of not being able to control his dick, or his wife blaming him for thoughts about another woman. And it’s about a woman’s fears that her man can’t control his dick, or some bitch is trying to steal him, and can she compete? Does he have a thing for white girls? Now that she is a mother and home owner is her man gonna get scared of their commitment and start acting like a teenager and ruin everything she worked so hard for? Is he not ready for this jelly?
Also there’s the angry property owner aspect. You violated the sanctity of my home, you touched my baby, you must die. And there’s a pretty shitty stereotype here: the other assistant Lisa works with is a catty gay guy who loves gossip so much he keeps endangering the Charles family by telling Derek’s business to Lisa. From his facial expressions it seems like he even knows how shameful his behavior is, but he’s an addict. He can’t keep his gossip dick in his pants like Derek does with his actual dick.
It’s weird because the movie is from Derek’s POV until the climax, when suddenly Sharon discovers Lisa in their house and has to fight her. It’s an epic catfight, which I don’t mean as a sexist term but as an acknowledgment that they’re just wailing on each other, they don’t have any technique, and that makes it fun. And they go far enough that the house gets pretty fucked up. Lisa becomes a literal homewrecker even while not wearing any pants.
For me the movie was worth watching just to see Beyonce dragging half-naked Lisa by the ankle and saying “You crazy bitch. I’ll wipe the floor with your skinny ass!” She has a couple good tough girl lines like that. And there is a great, preposterous and suspenseful set piece that leads to Lisa’s ultimate fate. I think it’s intentional that the whole movie is the husband failing to handle this Lisa problem and finally the wife takes care of it, only to have the husband run up and hug her when it’s all over, like a typical movie wife. It’s gotta be an intentional gender inversion there.
It’s a fun sequence. As I watched it I could almost here the cheers I’m sure it got when it played in theaters. I probly would’ve been cheering, at least. Still, I gotta say it feels a little unearned. Sharon is such a nothing character throughout the rest of the movie. She has no unique characteristics. She just does standard cutesy talk, mother talk, serious wife talk. She’s in the dark about what’s really going on and makes the wrong decision, blaming Derek for something he didn’t do and kicking him out. When she decides to take him back she doesn’t even give herself credit for it, she says “I don’t come from a family of divorce.” Put it on inherited rules of morality and not her own decision making.
I wish the movie worked better as a whole, but it’s undeniably fun to see a woman talking shit and scrapping like that, especially when that woman is a likable-but-usually-not-portrayed-in-this-way pop singer like Beyonce. Her acting is not great in this movie, but her attitude and her… fierceness is enjoyable.
Personally I don’t have much opinion on Beyonce one way or the other. She is obviously talented and I’ve enjoyed a few of her songs. I don’t know that much about her music and even less about her as a person. Whatever her out of touch upper class lifestyle may be I think we can respect that she seems to hold herself to a classier standard than most of her celebrity peers. On the other hand, my favorite thing she ever did was this very non-classy cover photo:
That actually would’ve been an even better ending to OBSESSED. Maybe the pet gators come up in part 2.
Actually I’m genuinely surprised they haven’t done a part 2, but as an unrelated DTV sequel. They did SINGLE WHITE FEMALE 2, after all. OBSESSED 2 would just be the same story with different names and lesser known actors, probly even the same racial dynamic, though they might get nervous and point it out this time.
It’s worth mentioning that Scout Taylor-Compton, Rob Zombie’s Laurie Strode, plays a babysitter who falls for Lisa pretending to be a friend of Sharon’s dropping off a present for the baby. That poor girl just cannot get a break on her babysitting gigs. Maybe she could continue the streak as the one returning character who ties the sequels together. Or if she won’t do it get the gay guy.
OBSESSED is the only theatrical film so far from prolific TV director Steve Shill. The screenplay is by David Loughery, who had a hand in PASSENGER 57, MONEY TRAIN, the surprisingly good (and openly racially themed) LAKEVIEW TERRACE, and also STAR TREK V. So you trekkos are gonna love this shit. It’s just like Star Trek only this time the final frontier is the attic of Beyonce’s house where she has to dodge swinging two-by-fours and stay balanced on the beams even though she’s wearing boots with heels.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.