Brenda Song Fights for Her Life in Campy Netflix Thriller ‘Secret Obsession’
A young woman experiences a living nightmare in Netflix’s latest offering, “Secret Obsession.” Former Disney Channel darling Brenda Song stars as Jennifer Williams, who is first introduced running from an unknown attacker during a rainstorm. It all ends when she is hit by a car and wakes up in the hospital with amnesia. While going in and out of consciousness, she has flashes of a fairytale life with a faceless groom. It seems as though everything is going to be alright after her Prince Charming, husband Russell (Mike Vogel), comes to claim her, but it’s only the beginning of what becomes a long struggle in this campy and predictable thriller.
After she is discharged from the hospital, Russell whisks Jennifer off to their beautiful home in the mountains to finish her recovery, with the expectation that he will be taking her back to town for periodic check-ups. In addition to the head trauma, Jennifer also has to cope with an injured leg. Not surprisingly, this isolated setting, along with Jennifer’s physical impairments, all come into play in the third act, leaving Jennifer all the more vulnerable after she begins to connect some dots. Although “Secret Obsession” is remarkably similar to countless Lifetime original films and the kind of B movies one can typically view on premium cable around three in the morning, this film does play on some of our modern fears, such as being cut off from technology. Arguably, being without cell phone reception and internet access is almost as limiting as being without another limb, as Jennifer comes to find out.
Dennis Haysbert co-stars as Frank Page, the detective assigned to Jennifer’s case. In another crime melodrama cliché, Frank has his own haunted past; the one case he has not been able to crack is the one closest to home. Some years prior, his own daughter went missing. In what is meant to be an emotionally stirring scene, we see him wrap a present for the girl’s birthday, only to go and put it in a closet with years of unopened gifts. Unfortunately, this subplot is never fully explored. His determination to find Jennifer’s attacker may be fueled by his own failure to save his child, but the parallels aren’t as clear as they could be.
Again, “Secret Obsession” is incredibly predictable and the script formulaic. From the start, it’s obvious that Vogel as Russell is a not the loving husband and upstanding citizen that he claimes to be. Even the title alone is a spoiler. However, the actors do their best with the material. Song, for her part, never hits a false note, and the viewer will find themselves rooting for her when she finds herself fighting for not only her freedom, but also for her life. This is the kind of film that is best viewed with girlfriends, preferably after at least a few cocktails.
Although director and co-writer Peter Sullivan most likely intended “Secret Obsession” to be a guilty pleasure kind of film from the start, it would not have hurt to explore deeper themes. As Jennifer’s predicament stems from male entitlement, it would have served the film better to take a closer look at toxic masculinity and other topics relevant in 2019.
“Secret Obsession” begins streaming July 18 on Netflix.