Though this review will be rife with vitriolic rage, Addicted is a movie at turns so odious, insulting to its audience, and hypocritical in its approach to sexuality and sex addiction that it almost doesn’t warrant it. It’s a reprehensible movie, somehow the worst film of 2014 that this writer has seen, but its failures at every level of film production are less offensive than simply embarrassing. It’s the kind of film for which the Alan Smithee pseudonym was invented. That Bille Woodruff put his name on it is admirable, for it requires a special kind of courage to claim partial responsibility for dross of this caliber.
You’d think that Zoe (Sharon Leal) has a perfect life. Her doting husband Jason (Boris Kodjoe) works long hours to provide for their family, Zoe herself is the head of a booming art business, her children are precocious in a way that suggests she’s destined to disappoint them, and nothing in their household is amiss. Except, of course, that Zoe has sexual desires unmet by Jason, desires that were barely edgy when Addicted’s source material was published in 2001. Because Zoe does things like look at porn (gasp!), use a vibrator when Jason passes out immediately after sex for her own enjoyment (double gasp!), and dares to look at other men with desire (fainting spell!), she’s clearly an out-of-control nymphomaniac whose incorrigible lust will cast her life into an abyss of destructive behavior.
The film’s slut-punishing ethics recall last year’s Temptation, the Tyler Perry vehicle that saw a career woman’s wandering eye disciplined with AIDS, a permanent limp due to a violent beating, and a life of spinsterhood. Addicted gets even deeper into the web of despair that errant female desire can apparently weave; by film’s end, there’s more than one attempted murder, a car accident, multiple break-ins, and a series of family-destroying missed soccer games, among the many other perils the film outlines for a lost woman whose clearly perverted mind wants more than to lie back and think of England while her perfect husband does what marriage entitled to him.
But for all of Addicted’s moralizing, it sure wants audiences to get into the spirit of the film’s many, many softcore sex scenes first. Zoe’s repeatedly noted eye for artistic talent sends her into the clutches of Quinton Canosa (ex-model William Levy), an impossibly ripped, affectless stud whose immediately predatory approach to interactions with Zoe is seen by the film as a weakness of constitution on her part and not as increasingly threatening behavior on his. (The film barely makes it to the 30-minute mark before she surrenders to his sensual repetitions of “I know you want it,” which is clearly erotic and not horrifying in the least.) Zoe embarks on an affair with Quinton, but her sexual thirst is hardly quenched. Soon it’s a life of pill-popping orgies, torrid bathroom sex, and a lot of tasteful touching to bargain-bin R&B for Zoe, despite her therapists’ repeated diatribes about how disturbed she is.
Addicted aspires to hedge its voyeuristic interest in Zoe’s many affairs with ham-handed preaching about the evils of sex addiction, but the film seems to lack a fundamental understanding of exactly what that is. In the film’s world, any sex that isn’t in the missionary between a married couple is just inches away from a life of drugs, promiscuity, and self-destruction, and there’s no time for the nuances of how or why somebody becomes a sex addict, at least until late in the game. Once Addicted actually needs to explain how Zoe’s interest in getting laid a little more often turns her into damaged goods, it has the audacity to invoke a disturbing childhood trauma for some late-game, empathetic melodrama, presumably so that audiences receptive to the film’s message can comfort themselves with the knowledge that only the broken ones want that kind of sex.
The film positions itself as a revelatory look at the sexual condition, but between the soft-focus, Skinemax-quality humping every few minutes, and the beyond-wooden performances by all on hand, Addicted delivers its message with all the impact of an after-school special. The film’s sexual politics are beyond irresponsible, but in a film so furiously, relentlessly stupid as this one it’s almost difficult to get riled up. At least, it is until the final act, in which Zoe’s endless downward spiral is depicted in gruesome detail, and nearly every other character in the film who exploits her is given a pass, because it’s always the woman’s fault. Addicted doesn’t belong in any world, least of all in this one, where the attitudes on display are still held by far too many. It’s not often a movie can earn this kind of criticism, but Addicted is a film that should not exist, and the world would be better off if it were to be somehow stricken from the public record.