“Addicted,” a film based on the 2001 book from erotica author Zane, brings to life the story of Zoe Reynard (Sharon Leal), a woman who has a “perfect” career, husband and family, yet can’t stop seeking sex outside her marriage.
Director Bille Woodruff offers us a glimpse of what sexual freedom can be, only to undermine his film with disappointingly familiar patriarchal rules and weak clichés.
At the start of “Addicted,” Zoe takes us six months into the past, explaining to therapist Dr. Marcella Spencer (Tasha Smith) how she met her extramarital lover, artist Quinton Canosa (William Levy). Zoe continues to see Canosa and picks up a new lover, Corey (Tyson Beckford). We get to see Zoe with her husband Jason (Boris Kodjoe) and family, but the script doesn’t bother much to develop Zoe’s life outside of her affairs.
Other characters aren’t developed either. They go from innocent to deceitful, loving to hateful, in jumps that don’t give us time to catch up. They are pawns in a plot that seems to run out of steam beyond its rich sex scenes.
The film itself is often beautifully vapid. If we have to determine what it is trying to say through its characters, we may find ourselves bereft of understanding. The film focuses on Zoe’s lush, colorful high heels, outfits and lacy lingerie. She’s a woman at the head of a business that we learn little about. The movie’s three men are all hunky, usually in various stages of undress and have little to offer other than their beauty and sex. They aren’t bad to look at, but don’t they have something to say other than clichés? (One of the worst offenders: “I know you want it,” the now infamous refrain from Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines,” in this case uttered by Quinton.)
For all of “Addicted’s” shortcomings, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a movie with a female lead – a Black female lead at that – who can watch pornography, get head and masturbate on screen. It’s refreshing to see that boldness in Zoe’s character, especially when real-life bold sexuality in Black women can often be met with vitriol. (Beyoncé, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj come to mind.) However, it all quickly unravels.
In the movie’s third act, when Zoe’s lovers discover each others’ existences, they seem downright offended that Zoe would have more than one lover and that she would want to end the affairs. When lover Quinton sees lover Corey, Quinton says, “It seems Zoe has been cheating on her husband and on me too.” Corey then asks Zoe, “You think you can fuck anybody you want and say goodbye?” Curiously, in this film cheating is treated as though it should be a monogamous sport.
All three of the men in Zoe’s life – including her husband, upon finding her with the other two men – take to calling her a “bitch” and a “whore,” while Zoe glibly explains away her behavior by saying she’s “sick.” A final plot twist allows Zoe to remember a connected childhood secret hinted at earlier in the film. She absolves herself of transgressions, her husband forgives her and all is well.
In a world in which the sexuality of women – particularly Black women – is still policed, it would have been refreshing to see a sexually frank woman on screen with no apologies. Instead, the build up of Zoe’s “addiction” posits the idea that women can’t be sexually voracious without being dysfunctional.