For most of its slightly overlong running time, “Obsessed” is a reasonably well-made stalker thriller, about a yuppie financial exec and the temp who becomes… well, the title role, let’s say. But when wronged wife and crazy lady finally let loose on each other in the film’s final scenes, “Obsessed” becomes a wildly campy and deliciously trashy must-see.
Broker Derek (Idris Elba) and his wife Sharon (Beyoncé Knowles) are so utterly blissful — what with his recent promotion, their new home and beautiful baby, her plans to go back to college — that you just know they’re not going to make it past the opening credits without something really terrible happening.
That something is Lisa (Ali Larter), a temp who immediately sets her line for Derek, wife or no wife. With a combination of tears, booze, a mix CD and some PG-13 thigh flashing, Lisa worms her way into his confidence. But when Lisa puts the make on Derek in the men’s room at the boozy office Christmas party, then shows up in his car sporting lingerie and fishnets, he realizes things have gone too far.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t been talking to his wife about all this. Sharon, naturally, has suspicions about Lisa from the moment she sees her; it turns out Sharon was Derek’s assistant before they married, and she wisely made a rule that henceforth he work with men only. So when Lisa turns up at a corporate retreat and slips Derek a roofie and then, after he forcefully rejects her, overdoses on sleeping pills while naked in his bed, Sharon doesn’t take things so well.
The couple finally makes up, but Lisa’s not through with her plans just yet, which leads to the much-publicized “I’ll SHOW you CRAZY!” throwdown between the two women.
Screenwriter David Loughery previously gave us the overcooked “Lakeview Terrace,” but while that film centered around issues of mixed-race relationships, the fact that Derek and Sharon are African-American while Lisa is white is never once mentioned in the film. That aspect does provide an unspoken subtext to Sharon’s defense of her marriage against the “skinny-ass” interloper.
Larter’s character seems like an amalgam of all the femmes fatales from the Michael Douglas Sexual Panic Trilogy: Lisa temporarily outsmarts the cops like Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct,” and she works office minx-iness and reverse sexual discrimination like Demi Moore in “Disclosure.” But she’s mainly working the “Fatal Attraction” vibe with the suicide attempt and child-napping and home invasion-ing.
Not that “Obsessed” has the cultural vibe of that earlier thriller; as queer Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce noted recently on Twitter, “If Glenn Close played AIDS in ‘Fatal Attraction,’ what’s the white woman in Beyoncé’s ‘Obsessed’ playing? Colonialism? Bats--t cracker insanity?”
Lisa’s pretty much just there to make the audience hate her more and more so that we’ll cheer when Sharon finally beats the crap out of her. And darned if it doesn’t work, albeit perhaps not in the way that the filmmakers intended. Director Steve Shill keeps things restrained up until that final fracas, leading one to suspect he wasn’t intending to make an over-the-top campy melodrama.
But that’s what great about camp — it only works if it’s unintentional on the part of the creators. So thanks for the laughs, you cast and crew members of “Obsessed”; don’t be surprised if this film winds on the midnight movie circuit, with drag queens impersonating Beyoncé and Ali Larter and tearing each other’s wigs off in front of the screen.