Obsessed

Acceptable stereotypes
★★
☆☆☆☆
Released: 
2009
Director: 
Steve Shill
Starring: 
Beyonce Knowles, Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Jerry O’Connell
The Setup: 
Psycho white woman targets married black man!
Discussion: 

As soon as I saw that this movie was coming out, I knew I would BE THERE, because for one, I love psycho stalker movies, and for two, I love Ali Larter, especially when she’s being a bitch. So obviously, a psycho bitch is even better. And the fact that it stars Beyonce promises lots of drama and sassy dialogue, both of which it delivers in spades. It also delivers a lot of familiar black stereotypes about non-blacks, but that’s okay, because it’s blacks doing the stereotyping!

So we have the credits, during which the production company “Rainforest Films” is on screen as out heroes drive up in a huge SUV. Beyonce as Sharon and her husband, Idris Elba as Derek, arrive in their new enormous new home with their infant boy, Kyle. We see Sharon test the soft floor in the attic, and if you’ve ever seen a movie before, you’ll know that someone is going to fall through the attic floor. A few seconds later the movers deliver a glass table, and you know at that moment that someone is going to fall on and break that glass table—possibly when they fall through the attic floor.

Derek has a good job at an L.A. investment firm, where he meets Ali Larter as Lisa in the elevator. We soon find out that Sharon was Derek’s assistant, and that since then she has forbidden him to have female assistants, which seems like sex discrimination which I believe is illegal, but no matter. His assistant is Derek, identified as gay and who embodies most stereotypes about gay men, from his nasal voice to his indulgence in gossip, his being in charge of decorating for the office Christmas party, and the detail that he believes he caught the stomach flu from his lip balm. The friend I attended insists that what Patrick actually said was “Lip Gloss.”

Anyway, Lisa takes an interest in Derek from the start, and for no discernable reason—except, as well for all know, the common stereotype that all white women want black men—and starts to always be showing up when he’s around, and just a little too interested and too familiar. Things remain very low-boil until the office Christmas party, to which spouses are not invited. Lisa encourages Derek to drink, which he does not normally do, then corners him in the restroom and comes on to him hard—although all clothes stay on and he explicitly tells her to knock it off. Then he leaves and goes home, but doesn’t tell Sharon anything. The next night, after work, Lisa appears in his car in a raincoat with only lingerie underneath, and he has to physically fend her off. That night he is going to tell Sharon, but comes home to find her just off the phone with her friend, whose husband just left her for “some random woman at work,” so the time doesn’t seem to be particularly right. The next day he is going to report her to his superiors, but finds that she had voluntarily left the company, so again he says nothing, thinking his problems over. Ah, but we know different, don’t we?

SPOILERS > > >
He has to go on a business retreat, and guess who shows up? She drugs his drink and shows up in his hotel room! The next day she shows up at his meeting, and he tells her to stay away, which she can’t believe “after last night.” He says “You’re sick. You need help,” to which she gets a devious smile on her face and says “I know. Help me.” That night he comes back to his room to find she has taken an overdose in his bed.

Now the movie takes a turn, and from here on out it’s Beyonce’s show. This is also the point at which the audience I was with started laughing out loud along with the movie, as Beyonce flips out and finally lays down the law. Derek is at the hospital when Sharon shows up, and is present as he is interrogated by the female detective on the case, her exclamations of “She was naked in your bed?!” and suchlike disrupting the police investigation and drawing a lot of laughter from the audience. Sharon does not want to hear one word of what Derek has to say, in fact, I don’t think she ever finds out what actually happened, and orders him “out of my house.” She’s not exactly the supportive, stand-by-her-man type. He’s not worried about Lisa because word is she went back to San Francisco, and spends three months living in a hotel while having visitations with his son and enduring chilly attitude from Sharon.

Sharon and Derek abruptly have a date and get back together—again he never actually gets to tell his side of what happened, and she remains uninterested in finding out—and she gives him the key to “her” house. But while they’re out, Lisa has shown up again and tricked the white babysitter [who is caught up with texting while listening to her iPod] into letting her into the house. She is shown upstairs holding the baby for what seems like an hour or so but is later described as only “a few minutes.” When Derek and Sharon come back, the baby is missing! Only he’s been put outside in the car while they were inside. She’s just messing with them! But now Beyonce swings into ferocious defense mode.

Then Derek and Sharon are going on vacation. Lisa calls Patrick and of course he blabs his silly homo mouth about the details of their travel plans, whereupon Lisa goes to the house, strews the bed with rose petals, and lays on in the bed… in a giant oversized athletic T shirt? Yes, because it’s a PG-13 movie. But guess what? Sharon forgot something and is coming back home.

This leads to the big knock-down, drag-out catfight [although still quite tame], and—well, you remember that soft spot in the attic floor? Which the glass table just happens to be under? This movie follows the familiar pattern where Lisa is hanging by her fingers, and Sharon relents and reaches out to save her. This is necessary to show that Sharon is actually a good person and when it comes down to it, would actually save her enemy. And of course Lisa has to try to continue to fight, to show that she’s a bad person and truly deserves to die. Which, soon enough, she has. The end!
< < < SPOILERS END

It was made fun because the people in my audience were laughing, and it does succeed in riling an audience up [as it is designed to], but that about all that can be said for the positive about it. It’s truly piss-poor in every other way, especially the script [by the guy who wrote Lakeview Terrace, so apparently he's interested in racial politics] and the pedestrian direction [a TV director making his film debut]. None of these characters have any history or motivation [we find out absolutely nothing about Lisa and why she fixates on Derek from the first second she sees him], and the whole thing is so egregiously PG-13 that any spark of perversity is absent. You know how some say clever filmmakers are able to work around constrictions and still deliver something that has suggestions of violence or interesting sexuality? This would be an example of the opposite.

What this really is is a piece for people who want to see a righteous black woman lay down some ass kicking to an evil white woman. What stands in place of characterization are black culture stereotypes about white skanks bent on breaking up good stable black families, a side line on those silly blabbermouth gays, and I would lay money there’s some material on the cutting room floor in which Christine Lahti’s female detective is revealed to be a lesbian. Even Derek and Sharon are stock stereotypes; he’s the upright, successful black businessman who has “made it” because he is surrounded by luxury goods [and, interestingly, all his "best" friends are white], and she’s the ferocious black woman who demands respect and honesty from her man, and will kick some righteous ass while delivering sassy diva-isms to anyone who tries to come near her family. This stereotyping kind of bothered me, until it occurred to me: This is just a blaxploitation movie. So the way it unfairly sets up evil racial stereotypes just to knock down is pretty much standard for the genre, and in fact its very reason for being.

One familiar stereotype that did kind of annoy me, however, is the old thing about the man being an IDIOT, and the woman the wise one with her priorities straight, capable of seeing what’s truly important in life and focusing on that. Let’s keep in mind that Derek fended Lisa off all the way, and his only crime is not telling his wife about these incidents in which not much of anything happened. She, for all her talk of trust and mutual respect, does not bother to listen to his side—she NEVER, in fact, finds out what happened—and just starts issuing “I Am Woman” style sassy pronouncements… and lets this go on for THREE MONTHS! When she finally forgives him, it is not for any reason or understanding between them, it’s just that enough time has elapsed. I wonder if the filmmakers and Beyonce herself know that this actually does NOT make her look good. Yes, he omitted a few facts from her, but theoretically if she married him she made some promises to stand by and support him even an eensy-weensy little bit, but here the merest RUMOR of impropriety leads her to kick him out without even considering his case—and the audience is supposed to cheer her. Ultimately, kind of sad.

But the whole thing is so poor, it’s not worth getting riled up over. Too bad it can’t even make enough of its conventions to deliver something that has even a tiny spark of depth or interest to it. Swimfan is better than this.

Should you watch it: 

If you can go to a busy theater with a bunch of raucous blacks or gays… or gather a similar group at home. If not, I would skip it entirely.