Recycling, regretfully, seems to be the name of the game in Hollywood these days. On the horror front, we’ve been treated to remakes of The Last House on the Left, My Bloody Valentine, and Friday the 13th. In the musical realm, Fame will soon be released. And in the drama/thriller department, we now have a remake of Fatal Attraction, with the new film Obsessed, directed by Steven Shill and starring Idris Elba, Beyoncé Knowles, and Ali Larter.
We know the story. Attractive married couple with beautiful baby boy is terrorized by equally attractive woman who has fixated her affections on the husband. It’s a triangle, but one for the new millennium as it includes a racial element — an African American couple and a Caucasian wannabe “other woman” in serious need of psychiatric help.
Executive Derek Charles (Elba) is happily married to wife Sharon (Knowles). Derek has the misfortune to meet Lisa (Larter), a newly hired temp working as his assistant. Lisa flirts aggressively with Derek, and matters come to a head during the office Christmas party when she comes onto him. Amazingly, he isn’t tempted, nor does he succumb to her attentions. Lisa doesn’t handle rejection well.
We know where things are heading — the eventual confrontation between the ladies in a scene that I’m sorry to say would be more at home in a movie like Street Fighter than it is in a supposedly realistic drama/thriller. Wearing four-inch designer pumps, Knowles kicks, stomps, and punches it out with the equally feral Larter. Stalkers are scary. But Knowles’ character doesn’t appear to feel fear, only boiling rage. I imagine there are some women out there who might feel exactly the same way in these circumstances, however, this approach as written by screenwriter David Loughery and played by Knowles — who strikes just that one note throughout — undermines the genuine terror a person would feel in the presence of a deranged stalker. It’s a fun, knockdown-drag out match, but it evoked laughter, shouts, and cheers in the audience at the screening I attended instead fear.
From the narrative and dramatic standpoints, Obsessed suffers from the fact that nothing actually happens between Derek and Lisa. Her behavior lacks motivation. Lisa isn’t a disturbed jilted lover or one-night stand gone wrong. She is merely crazy, and that isn’t nearly as compelling a reason as an actual soured sexual encounter with Derek would have been. We could relate to the latter. Lisa’s actions would at least seem plausible.
Despite the film’s weaknesses, the acting is strong for what it is. Elba is a capable actor with presence, though he plays a one dimensional character that is just a little too good to be true — a “strong man” who doesn’t stray from the path of faithfulness even in the face of irresistible temptation. Though over-the-top in some scenes, the drop-dead gorgeous Larter plays Lisa with zeal, and she’s able to bring different shadings to her characterization.
And speaking of drop-dead gorgeous we can’t forget Knowles as Sharon, who continues to impress me with her acting chops. As if channeling her alter ego Sasha Fierce, Knowles is powerful especially in her scenes with Elba, when she learns of Derek’s alleged affair with the psycho temptress Lisa. Knowles deserves better films to showcase her talents though, like Dreamgirls and Cadillac Records did.
Unfortunately, Obsessed is a superficial and slick update of its far superior predecessor, only it just happens to have a great girl-on-girl booty-kicking fight scene appended to it for entertainment value. Unlike the film it copies, Obsessed isn’t more than a story; it isn’t bigger than itself. It makes no social-sexual observations, nor does it frighten the pants back on to straying, or potentially straying men, cautioning them — and women, too — of the dangers of engaging in casual sexual encounters. STDs aren’t the only things you might bring home. You could just catch yourself a stalker instead, and penicillin won’t make that problem go away.