Weekend Box Office Obsessed with Beyoncé

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Beyoncé Knowles, left, and Idris Elba in Obsessed

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According to Hollywood wisdom, films aimed at the young grab a huge share of their revenue in the first weekend, then fall off a cliff as the kids move on to the next week's must-see. Adult-oriented dramas are supposed to have staying power, because the over-30s don't feel compelled to rush out to movies the day they open; word-of-mouth will lead them there eventually. But State of Play, which stars Russell Crowe as another crusading newsman, and which finished second to 17 Again last weekend, fell to seventh place in its sophomore frame, with $6.9 million; it also lost more of its audience than the Zac Efron comedy did. Sometimes, if grownups don't come to a film on the first weekend, it may mean they're sitting this one out.

Fatal Disclosure
Besides, couples of any age found they could agreeably slum through the marital-arts shock therapy of Obsessed. Elba is an investment guru and Knowles his former secretary, now at home with their child. At first they have one of those healthy, symbiotic marriages that real life may sometimes provide (Barack and Michelle?) but that you never find in movie comedies, and that exist in drama only to be blown apart.

Enter Ali Larter — who a decade ago was the blond in the whipped-cream bikini in Varsity Blues and lately has played Jessica/Niki/Tracy on Heroes — as an office temp, or do we mean temptress? She has an instant itch for Elba and imagines he feels the same; to her, Asset Manager is just the formal designation for Ass Man. Soon she's groping him in a bathroom, stripping down to her Victoria's Secrets in his car, doping his drink at a business retreat so she can waylay him in his hotel room. When she takes some sleeping pills in his room, Knowles is finally brought into the triangle. And then Larter gets really mean.

The Elba character synthesizes two Michael Douglas roles in movies about white-collar husbands victimized by predatory females: Fatal Attraction and Disclosure. The only wrinkle is that the man is black, the crazy lady white. In a New York Times review of the film, Stephen Holden notes that Elba and Larter physically resemble O.J. Simpson and his late ex-wife Nicole, which, Holden argues, "lends Obsessed a distasteful taint of exploitation." But this isn't a rewriting of the O.J. murder farrago. It's closer to another case involving a high-profile athlete: the L.A. Lakers' Kobe Bryant, who beat a rape rap brought by a young white woman with whom he had sex in a Colorado motel room. In Obsessed, the woman is utterly ruthless, the man wholly blameless. Indeed, he's a passive character — a pliable politician who just wants to "keep looking forward" — compared with his suspicious wife and his nutsy stalker. Elba plays the victim here; Knowles will be the avenger.

Written by David Loughery (who did the thriller Lakeview Terrace) and directed by Steve Shill (a veteran of many TV series, including The Wire), Obsessed takes ages to get its scare machinery moving. All theater seats should be equipped with fast-forward buttons for the first hour, in which Knowles is seen for about five minutes. Larter carries that section, and she's intimidatingly efficient at her task, using her throaty, knowing voice to lend intimacy and innuendo to every sentence.

Credit her with the movie's two grisly frissons. Having conned her way into the Elba-Knowles home, she stands in their infant son's bedroom, holding the child before she absconds with him. Then she leaves him in the back seat of Elba's car, a lipstick imprint on the boy's forehead. Elba is required to disappear for the climactic cat fight — so, oddly, is the child — and the all-girl whacking, choking and head-butting commence. If this picture proves anything, it's that you don't need guys for a rousing bare-knuckle fight.

Obsessed also certifies the crossover appeal of appealing performers from other media. After Miley Cyrus's Hannah Montana: The Movie, and 17 Again with Zac Efron, the Beyoncé film is the third consecutive weekend winner to be headlined by a young star from the worlds of pop music and TV musicals. Apparently, if you can sing, you can make the multiplex cash registers ring.

Susan Boyle, are you ready for your big-screen closeup?

The official estimation of the top 10 finishers, as reported by Box Office Mojo:

1. Obsessed, $28.5 million, first weekend
2. 17 Again, $11.7 million; $40 million in 10 days
3. Fighting, $11.4 million, first weekend
4. The Soloist, $9.7 million, first weekend
5. Earth, $8.6 million; $14.2 million in five days
6. Monsters vs Aliens, $8.5 million; $174.8 million in 31 days
7. State of Play, $6.9 million; $25.1 million in 10 days
8. Hannah Montana: The Movie, $6.4 million; $65.6 million in 17 days
9. Fast & Furious, $6.1 million; $145.2 million in 24 days
10. Crank: High Voltage, $2.4 million; $11.5 million in 10 days

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