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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Obsessed (review)

Bitches Be Crazy!

It’s moving day for the perfect family as Obsessed opens. Derek (Idris Elba: The Unborn, RocknRolla), a hedge fund manager who hasn’t been impacted in the least by the global financial meltdown, is moving into a huge, gorgeous home in a ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood with his beautiful wife, Sharon (Beyoncé Knowles: The Pink Panther, Austin Powers in Goldmember). They have randy married sex on the floor of their new master bedroom while they wait for the movers — their adorable little boy snoozes in his stroller by the fireplace in the living room. The cozy domesticity couldn’t be more ripe for disaster.
And disaster it shall be, in all senses of the word — primarily, though, of the cinematic variety. Funny? I cannot tell you how ineptly hilarious this “thriller” is, from its weirdly retro vibe — as if the feminism of the 1970s, 80s, 90s and 2000s had not come between manhunting women and the poor saps they prey on — to its outrageous telegraphing of its “big” finale.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but director Steve Shill does. As Derek and Sharon wander round their new empty house in that opening bit, he makes sure they focus on the weak floorboards in the attic — whoops! don’t step there! Then Derek heads off to work, where he first encounters scary temp Lisa (Ali Larter: Resident Evil: Extinction, Heroes), a predatory blonde whom a man would have to be deaf, blind, mentally challenged, and completely unaware of movies like Fatal Attraction and the oeuvre of Demi Moore to not know that she’s bad news. Meanwhile, Sharon is directing the movers to put the glass-topped table there, right under the big dangling swinging chandelier…

If you can’t put two and two together… well, maybe you will be surprised by the finale. If you can add, though… oh, the belly laugh as Shill springs his climax on us like we’ll be startled is almost worth the price of admission.

Well, no: I exaggerate. This feels like a bad episode of Law and Order — Shill’s experience, prior to this, consists entirely of TV episodes of a varied of shows including, yup, that one — but without the wiseass asides from Lenny Briscoe and Mike Logan. Oh, screenwriter David Loughery (who also wrote the far, far superior Lakeview Terrace) tries, but it feels like maybe he’s been watching too much Mad Men lately: “Temp?” Derek’s coworker Ben (Jerry O’Connell: Kangaroo Jack, Tomcats) snorts. “More like temp-tress!” Because men are, you see, utterly helpless in the face of, well, a pretty face and long legs. And also because, you know, “a lot of these single gals” — this is Ben again — “see the workplace as their hunting ground.” Not the plain, frumpy ones, just the ones who are a “smokin’ hot piece of ass” (Ben again… and the women are the predatory ones?).

I’d like to be able to say that there’s some even half-assed pretense toward addressing matters of office politics and how it can sometimes be tough to work with people you are — or might potentially be — sexually attracted to. But no. This is one of those impossible horror movies, like the kind about giant radioactive ants or invading aliens who want to steal our water. Lisa is just a crazy psychotic bitch who can’t deal with being rejected by Derek.

What? You mean Derek is completely innocent? Of course he is! He’s perfect! In a world where we all roll our eyes when an attractive, powerful man insists that he did not have sex with that woman, Derek really did not have sex with that woman. And that’s what makes Lisa go ballistic, you see: bitches be crazy!

Oh, and then poor Derek is further victimized, by his wife, who doesn’t believe Derek that he did not have sex with that woman when Lisa starts stalking Derek, refusing to let him refuse her. Because bitches be crazy, even wives! And then the lady cop (Christine Lahti), who’s called in to investigate when something really bad happens? She doesn’t believe him either! Bitches be crazy!

And that finale? Bitches be really crazy! Especially over men! They just can’t help it!


MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual material including some suggestive dialogue, some violence and thematic content

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Jenn

    Haha, great review!!

  • Tonya

    Who says, “bitches be crazy”? Is that in the movie?

  • “Bitches be crazy!” should replace “keep calm and carry on” up top, just for the sheer unadulterated hell of it. :)

    …No pun intended.

  • Martha Allen

    No, the “bitches be crazy” line is not in the movie. It is a not-so-subtle (and slightly insulting) reference to the movie’s black lead characters.

  • It is a not-so-subtle (and slightly insulting) reference to the movie’s black lead characters.

    Actually I took MaryAnn’s usage as a derogatory knock against the filmmakers for creating female characters (black AND white) so insultingly.

  • Victor Plenty

    Apparently, “bitches be crazy” is a recurring line from yet another woman-hating movie, which MaryAnn had the misfortune of screening back in 2007.

    It may speak well of her readership that most of us did not immediately pick up on the reference. (Happily, I discovered it only with help from Google, having been lucky enough to avoid that movie.)

    It certainly speaks well of her movie-reviewing kung fu, that she is able to turn the forces of evil against one another in this way.

  • Andrew

    I was just wondering if your reference to Mad Men is implying that the show is sexist. (Just curious, not looking to start a trolling session)

  • Mike

    One unspoken plot absurdity is the fact that no white woman as beautiful as Ali Larter would be obsessed with a black guy. Sorry. Just the truth here.

  • Maverick

    @ Mike Either you are in serious denial, or just plain racist. I think both

  • Victor Plenty

    Mad Men IS “sexist” of course, but only in the sense that it aims to portray, with often painful levels of detail and accuracy, an era when sexism was openly flaunted on a near daily basis.

    It’s painful in a whole different way when characters who supposedly live in the 21st century start spouting lines that would be more at home in an episode of Mad Men.

  • t6

    I think there is a difference between the statements:

    “Mad Men is sexist.”
    and
    “Mad Men deals with sexism” or “Mad Men portrays a life in a sexist time.”

  • Victor Plenty

    Likewise, there is a vast difference between saying

    Mad Men is sexist

    or saying

    Mad Men is “sexist”

  • Mike

    @Maverik.

    Neither. It is just a matter of human dynamics and chance. Women of Ari Larter’s caliber rarely get that obsessed over men as they have plenty pickings. Unless they’re loony. And the chances of that type of a white women obsessing over a black is infinitesimally small. Nothing about pointing that out makes me a racist. A screen writer can make such a cinematic set up, but nobody will believe it no more than space aliens flying over to steal our water.

  • candace

    Your post is racist because in spite of him being wealthy and successful, a “catch” in other words, his blackness, in your eyes, still makes him inferior. Ali Larter’s character couldn’t have been obsessed with an attractive, upper class man regardless of his skin colour it’s his blackness and nothing else that makes the obsession unbelievable.

  • candace

    Sorry, the last comment was directed at Mike, not you MaryAnn.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    Of course, the whole point of the picture appears to be that she is loony. But carry on, Mike; your intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the minds of every single women in the whole world is probably the funniest thing I’ve seen in these comments since the penis guy in Observe and Report‘s thread.

  • Joe G

    Good review, but why not mention that all the white characters in the film are sleazy, immoral, or stupid? If a movie were made representing all the black characters as sleazy, immoral, or stupid, it would be condemned by most reviewers as “racist”. When whites are made to look bad, like in this film, black reviewers approve, and white reviewers are afraid of appearing “racist” for even noticing.

  • Victor Plenty

    ALL the characters in this movie look sleazy, immoral, or stupid, regardless of color.

    You might want to ask yourself what has happened to your perceptions, Joe G. Why did your brain only bother to register all the negative white characters? Why did all the negative black characters so totally escape your notice?

    You don’t have to consciously believe in any racist ideology for your perceptions to be skewed by the lingering aftereffects from centuries of racist culture.

  • MaryAnn

    No, the “bitches be crazy” line is not in the movie. It is a not-so-subtle (and slightly insulting) reference to the movie’s black lead characters.

    Oh, it certainly is not! It’s a reference to the attitude of the filmmakers (whose race I’m not aware of, and it wouldn’t change my response to this ridiculous movie one bit).

    I was just wondering if your reference to Mad Men is implying that the show is sexist.

    No, of course not. I was suggesting that the workplace environment depicted here looks more like something out of 1960 than 2009.

    Women of Ari Larter’s caliber rarely get that obsessed over men as they have plenty pickings.

    I’m afraid this comment says more about you, Mike, and what you think about women, than it says about the movie.

    Good review, but why not mention that all the white characters in the film are sleazy, immoral, or stupid?

    Is this not clear from my review? Is it not clear from my review that all the characters are (as Victor Plenty pointed out) ALL sleazy, immoral, or stupid?

    There’s nothing at all racial about this movie. If there’s one positive thing I can say about it, it’s that it’s color blind. All the characters could have been white, or all black, or the races could have been swapped around, and not one thing about this movie would be different.

  • One unspoken plot absurdity is the fact that no white woman as beautiful as Ali Larter would be obsessed with a black guy. Sorry. Just the truth here.

    By that logic, Nicole Simpson apparently never got romantically involved with her ex-husband O.J. After all, she was a white woman as beautiful as Ali Larter…

    And anyway, didn’t Ali Larter already play half of an interracial couple in Heroes?

    I’ll concede that there are some white women–especially ones over a certain age–who would be reluctant to enter into an interracial relationship but then again, some white women I’ve known–including my white Southern-born ex-girlfriend–would not.

  • MaryAnn

    The idea that Idris Elba is not himself a smokin’-hot piece of ass is laughable…

  • premiereone

    Ahhh…the convenience of being safely tucked away behind one’s keyboard when we want to be our true hateful selves with the racial comments…coward.

  • JR

    By that logic, Nicole Simpson apparently never got romantically involved with her ex-husband O.J. After all, she was a white woman as beautiful as Ali Larter…

    Exactly. Also, don’t forget Heidi Klum and Tiger Woods’ very blonde and gorgeous model wife.

  • Jurgan

    “Is it not clear from my review that all the characters are (as Victor Plenty pointed out) ALL sleazy, immoral, or stupid?”

    That wasn’t clear at all. From your review, it sounded like Derek was a perfect saint who happened to be the target of a crazy woman: “What? You mean Derek is completely innocent? Of course he is! He’s perfect!”

    “Exactly. Also, don’t forget Heidi Klum and Tiger Woods’ very blonde and gorgeous model wife.”

    Heidi Klum has a blonde, gorgeous model wife? Why haven’t I heard about this, and are there photos?

  • MaryAnn

    Derek is also this stupid: “a man would have to be deaf, blind, mentally challenged, and completely unaware of movies like Fatal Attraction and the oeuvre of Demi Moore to not know that she’s bad news.”

    And the wife and the cop are so femi-nazied that that are incapable of believing than a man must have avoided having sex with any woman who asks it of him.

    I mean, duh.

  • MaSch

    Just a question, possibly a bit OT: In which way do you use the term “to be femi-nazied”?

  • Jurgan

    I assume she means that they are portrayed as exaggerated caricatures of feminism- i.e., they hate and distrust all men indiscriminately. Feminism=/=misandry (is it bad that Word doesn’t even acknowledge misandry is a real word?)

    Tangentially, your takes on feminism are one of the most interesting parts of your site. I have to admit I know a lot more about the movement and have a much more positive view of it than I did before I started coming here.

  • MaSch

    Is it unusual misandry to assume that men would not actively avoid sex with a physically attractive woman? (It is a wrong assumption, but I don’t think it is only rampant in the anti-male branch of feminism.)

    Also, does the movie (which I certainly am not going to see) portray these women as man-hating or straw-feminists (for making such assumptions)?

  • Victor Plenty

    When sex risks ending a happy marriage and a lucrative career, it is insulting to assume a man would be unable to avoid that sex.

    Assuming male weakness in the face of temptation is also the basis for a lot of misogyny. Women forced to cover and seclude themselves so they don’t morally taint the pure male mind. Women told rape is their fault, for dressing the wrong way or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    The “anti-male branch of feminism” (to the extent such a thing even exists apart from the false caricatures of feminism created by its opponents) is a surprisingly mild reaction to the depth of suffering inflicted by misogyny over the centuries.

  • johnbraeden

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