Movie Review: "Secret Obsession"
Jennifer Williams (Brenda Song) was in a terrible accident. She woke up in the hospital, having endured severe injuries that have left her unable to walk and have left her with total memory loss. Her inability to walk was only temporary, but doctors were less certain about her memory. Fortunately, Jennifer had her husband—Russell (Mike Vogel)—who has been at her side since she woke up.
Russell told her who she was, told her about their marriage, told her about her parents, and took her back to their large, remote home. Jennifer did not remember anything, and nothing was familiar, so the whole situation has made her a stranger in her own life. While Russell has been by her side to help her through it, Jennifer began to suspect that their life together may not have been as perfect as Russell has been making it out to be. Maybe she was just paranoid and everything she has been told was true, but Jennifer suspects that there was a lot that she was not being told.
The Pros & Cons
Brenda Song (+4pts)
The Premise (+3pts)
The Mystery & The Suspense (+4pts)
Mike Vogel (-6pts)
Pro: Brenda Song (+4pts)
Brenda Song was convincing enough in this role. This was a thriller in which the main character—her character—had no idea who she was and had no recollection of her life before her recent injuries. Brenda Song had to play her character in a way that made you buy that she had no idea who she was, but she also had to sell the thriller aspect of her character’s story. I am not saying that no actress could have done this—I think there are plenty of actresses that could have. Still, I would not exactly call this an easy or typical role, and I think Brenda Song did a good job of bringing it to the screen convincingly.
Con: Predictable (-8pts)
First, let us pretend that this trailer did not give this entire movie away. The way this movie began ended up doing the very same thing. The filmmakers hid a certain element of the opening scene from the viewer to try to keep something a secret, but if you have ever seen a thriller before, then you would know what was coming. This was not helped by the performance from Mike Vogel—but I will get into that later. This was one of those movies where the filmmakers thought their plot was more clever than it was—or maybe they knew it was not clever and just did not care.
Either way, this movie was insanely predictable. Predictable movies are fine if you are watching a comedy, action, horror, or any genre that does not rely on having an unpredictable plot. This movie, however, was a predictable thriller—a genre in which being unpredictable is the whole point. By showing what they did in the beginning of the movie, they told us that Jennifer was involved in something much more than an “accident”. This means that you, the viewer, would know that something was up. There were also too few potential suspects, and you knew the filmmakers would make it someone that you had seen before, which gave the whole thing away. On paper, the premise of this movie could have worked, but the filmmakers executed it really poorly.
Pro: The Premise (+3pts)
I know I already mentioned this, and say what you want about this movie, but I thought the filmmakers had a good idea here. I think they did a poor job of bringing it to the screen effectively, but I think the premise was an interesting one that I really wanted to see done well. A woman gets in an accident, and has no one other than her husband to rely on, but her husband may be the greatest threat to her. If done right, the filmmakers could have used Jennifer’s memory loss to masterfully play with the mystery and suspense of this story. There was real potential here, and there were some moments in which that premise was still able to shine through. Unfortunately, the strong premise did not help this movie much, because the filmmakers completely dropped the ball with it.
Con: Assumptions (-5pts)
In order for this entire movie to happen, the antagonist had to make a ton of wild assumptions. They had to count on things happening in a very specific way, and there was no reason for them to possibly have assumed that things would go so well for them. Nonetheless, that is exactly what the antagonist planned for, and it was ridiculous that the whole thing went as conveniently as it did for them. I do not want to give it away—in the event that you choose to watch the movie after this raving review—but know that after the mystery was finally revealed, it poked massive holes in the plot that all seemed to stem from it making no sense that the antagonist could have known things would turn out the way that they did.
Pro: The Mystery & The Suspense (+4pts)
Okay, now I am starting to sound redundant, because I already mentioned this too, but bear with me. Anyway, the plot of this movie sort of ruined the premise. The viewer—in this case yours truly—knew the end result of the movie pretty early on. I knew who was behind all of this, but I did not know how they pulled it off, what their intentions were, or why. In that sense, the movie still had some mystery, which I was interested in seeing revealed.
The questions that I still had gave the movie some suspense. Even though I knew who the antagonist was, not knowing their intentions made them feel unpredictable and dangerous. Was the remaining mystery and suspense enough to save this movie? No, but it was enough to make it deserving of some credit.
Con: Mike Vogel (-6pts)
To be clear, I do not know exactly who is at fault here. However, the performance from Mike Vogel gave his character away almost as soon as we met him. The plot of this movie—and definitely the trailer—will make you pretty certain who the antagonist is before you even meet him. You will have a pretty good guess, but you will not be one hundred percent certain. Then Mike Vogel shows up on screen and any doubt regarding who the antagonist is will vanish shortly after he starts talking.
Maybe this was all the fault of Mike Vogel, or perhaps he did exactly what the director wanted from him. I honestly do not know which of those last statements is true, but it does not really matter, does it? The result was a performance so blatant that it gave away the identity of the antagonist in a movie where the whole point was supposed to be trying to figure that out that very thing. Does the film end with him as the antagonist? I am not going to say here, but know this: either he is the antagonist and the filmmakers gave it away almost immediately, or the entire movie blatantly pointed at one thing only to make a lazy, unjustified switch at the end. Would you say either of those options would make for a good thriller?
Grade: D+ (67pts)
I really think that the filmmakers had a good idea here. The movie was about a woman who woke up after an accident with amnesia. She had no memory of who she was or what her life was like before the accident, but she learned that she had a husband who was supportive, told her whatever he could of her past, and was at her side to help her through it all. Then she began to doubt whether everything she had been told was true, and began to suspect that her husband may have been hiding something—possibly even being dangerous. It was an idea that could have made for a really effective thriller, but the filmmakers did a poor job of bringing that idea to the screen.
Fortunately, Brenda Song delivered a convincing performance in the lead role, and the movie left a number of questions unanswered until the end of the movie—which helped build some mystery and suspense. However, there was one part of this story that was blatantly revealed—if it was not a lazy misdirection—way too early in the movie. The identity of the antagonist was the whole point of the movie, and the filmmakers ruined it almost immediately. It was not helped by the less than subtle performance from Mike Vogel, and all together made for a pretty predictable movie. This premise had potential, but despite this movie’s minor strengths, the filmmakers dropped the ball here in a pretty big way.