Derek Charles (Idris Elba) has it all. He’s the executive vice president of a Los Angeles asset-management firm that’s thriving exactly as it would in a movie conceived before the economic crisis. He’s moving his family into an impossibly spacious, polished-oakwood-floor dream house. And he’s married to a woman so radiant and gorgeous and soulful that she’s played by Beyoncé Knowles. What could spin things wrong? Try the arrival, in Derek’s office, of a new temp assistant (Ali Larter) who’s a vicious erotic predator with perfectly tapered flaring nostrils.
Obsessed is an obvious gloss on Fatal Attraction, a movie that has lived in the popular imagination for more than two decades because of how splendidly it squeezed Hitchcockian thrills out of an addled, sexually complicated, real-life messiness. Glenn Close, as the other woman scorned, may have been playing a feminist Medusa, but her rage at being tossed away after an affair spoke to a new world in which women, leveraging their power, had rewritten the rules of attraction. It’s doubtful that Obsessed will stick in the popular imagination for more than two weeks, because the movie is borderline ludicrous, and it jams its characters into rigid slots. Larter, as the office temptress who just about sexually assaults our hero, is a total psycho obsessed — and unhinged — from the get-go, and Knowles’ Sharon (who met her husband when she was his assistant) is jealous before she’s even laid eyes on her rival. As for Derek, he has none of the fascinating culpability of Michael Douglas in the earlier film. He’s guilty of nothing more than fatal flirtation.
It’s hard to shake the feeling that Obsessed regurgitates Fatal Attraction‘s adultery plot, minus any actual adultery, because the director, TV veteran Steve Shill, and the screenwriter, David Loughery, are copping out. The movie wants to tease us with intimations of a steamy biracial liaison; it just doesn’t want to actually go there. If Derek is innocent, then once Larter’s vamp starts to invade his private space and pretend that they’ve had a mad affair, why doesn’t he just clear things up by, you know, talking to his wife? The bizarre, paranoid premise of Obsessed is that Knowles — and, by extension, any good stand-by-your-man wife these days — is more than just loyal; she’s a high-maintenance Force To Be Reckoned With. And so even though Derek is innocent, she views him as guilty. This puts the wife and the un-mistress in the odd position of acting like secret sisters locked in collusion over their destruction of a man’s integrity. And when Christine Lahti shows up, as the world’s most gullible police investigator (naturally, she believes the stalker), her myopia just makes her the third leg of the sisterhood.
Obsessed has little plausibility, but at moments it’s an entertaining bad movie, and the performers are vivid. Elba, the gifted British actor best known as a regular on The Office, gives Derek a moneyed, middle-class solidity without ever suggesting that it’s dulled his senses. Larter is so sorority-bitch insincere she makes you hate her on sight. And Knowles takes the ridiculous role of a diva-housewife and makes it play…without rendering it any less ridiculous. The climactic catfight is so over-the-top that about all it’s missing is Tyler Perry’s Madea, popping out of the woodwork to wave her tiny gun at the blonde home-wrecker. C