Obsession has been around since forever and is, sadly, an important part of human existence. Everyone goes through an obsessive stage (especially at a younger age) but most people manage to surpass or at least to control this terrible state of being. In the modern age, the most common obsession seems to be that for celebrities.
Every time you turn on the TV, the radio, open a newspaper, you’re bound to be bombarded with unnecessary information about your favorite, or least favorite, celebrity. They are everywhere; they are part of our live whether we like or not. We all have our idols and when we are young we try to look like them, talk like them, dress like them and so on.
The film industry has always been exploiting this by deliberately influencing the trends in celebrity obsession. But there are also quite a few movies that pull the alarm trigger on obsession and showcase the dangers implied.
There are a lot of great obsession movies out there (“Fatal Attraction” and “The Fan” just to name two) but this list will concentrate exclusively on movies that deal with obsessions for tangible, flesh and blood people. Here are 10 great films about obsession for real-life celebrities.
10. Johnny Suede (Tom DiCillo, 1991)
Obsession for Ricky Nelson
Johnny Suede (Brad Pitt) is a young man with a very funky hair style. All his life Johnny wanted to be like his idol Ricky Nelson. For this reason the only goal of Johnny is to become a rock’n’roll star. He has the attitude, he has the hair, and he has the style except for a black pair of suede shoes. In Johnny’s mind, this is the only thing that separated him from his idol.
On his path to achieving his goal, Johnny is force to pawn his guitar for rent money, forms a local band and meets two completely different women that will ultimately change his life. The first woman, Darlette (Alison Moir), is a bohemian who is looking to get out of an abusive relationship. As quick as she comes into Johnny’s life as quick as she exits it.
The second woman, Yvonne (Catherine Keener), is more experienced woman that manages to open Johnny’s eyes and make him face the real world and ultimately realize the unhealthiness of his obsession. This low-key film is Tom DiCillo’s first directorial effort and one of Brad Pitt’s first starring roles.
9. Saving Silverman (Dennis Dugan, 2001)
Obsession for Neil Diamond
The subject deals with the classic Yoko Ono syndrome; two friends try to stop their third friend from marrying his controlling new girlfriend, as she is a threat to them and their band. The three friends have been Neil Diamond fans for as long as they can remember and decided to dedicate their professional lives to him.
For this reason, the three started a Neil Diamond tribute band that is now in danger of splitting up because of Darren Silverman’s (Jason Biggs) threatening new relationship. The film is essentially a screwball romantic comedy and the obsession issue is treated as a joke. The two friends` plans to “save” Darren Silverman involve getting him back together with his ex-girlfriend and kidnapping none other than Neil Diamond himself.
Of course, things do not go according to plan and the situation comedy is born. Neil Diamond plays himself in this movie and does a pretty good job of parodying his own stage persona. The funniest bits of the film are the ones involving the three friends’ different attempts to meet their idol.
8. Mystery Train (Jim Jarmusch, 1989)
Obsession for Elvis Presley
Jim Jarmusch is known as a man who speaks his mind and as one of the few directors who have 100% artistic freedom. One of the kings of independent American cinema, Jarmusch manages to never take himself too seriously and still deliver a powerful moralist message. “Mystery Train” is no exception to the facts mentioned earlier; it is a loose but edgy view of America from the outsider’s point of view.
The film comprise a triptych of stories involving foreign tourists who come to Memphis to visit the birthplace of rock’n’roll music. Each of the protagonists stay at the Memphis Hotel, which is designed to pay tribute to the king of rock’n’roll himself Elvis Presley. It is a very well-known fact the Americans worship Elvis and so it is proven with this film, which tells three stories of the cultural clashes.
The first story is about two Japanese tourists, obsessed with American music of the 50’s, who come to Memphis to pay their respects to Elvis Presley. The second story is about an Italian widow who comes to the city hoping to give some kind of meaning to her life. Finally, the third story gives the viewer a glimpse in the lives of a young girl, her boyfriend and her dysfunctional family. All three stories take place at Hotel Memphis, in one night and all of them are guided by the immortal spirit of Elvis Presley.
7. I Am Sam (Jessie Nelson, 2001)
Obsession for The Beatles
Hollywood is a sucker for dramas involving mentally handicapped persons and children; “I Am Sam” is about both but it is a very good film nonetheless. Sam Dawson (Sean Penn) is a man with developmental disability who had a sexual encounter with a homeless woman 7 years ago; as it turns out the woman just needed a place to stay for the night.
A child named Lucy (Dakota Fanning) was born from that one-night stand and now Sam must fight to win the legal battle over the custody of the child. Obviously, his case seems lost even from the start, due to his disability, but stone cold lawyer named Rita Harrison (Michelle Pfeiffer) agrees to take the case pro-bono in a late attempt to redeem her soul.
Despite the initial prejudice, Rita discovers Sam as a wonderful father who can also teach her a thing or two, not only about parenting but also about the value of love and family and life in general. Sam is also hopelessly in love with the Beatles and everything they represent – not just their music.
Jessie Nelson’s film pays a large tribute to arguably the most important band on the planet: the film is filled with Beatles songs and Beatles trivia. Sam’s daughter’s name is Lucy (a reference to the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”), Rita’s last name is Harrison (a reference to George Harrison) and the list of references could go on forever. If you have never been a fan of The Beatles, perhaps “I Am Sam” can change your mind.
6. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, 2014)
Obsession for Buddy Rich
“Whiplash” was one of last years’ biggest surprises in the Oscar race and deservedly won multiple awards. The story focuses on a young drummer named Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) who would do anything to get in the graces of cutthroat conductor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Their relationship is pretty shaky and the audience can’t really tell if the instructor is pushing him to become better or just from pure mean spirit.
The two, have their ups and downs but are united by their mutual love for jazz music and musician craftsmanship. Andrew’s drum idol is jazz legend Buddy Rich and at his first rehearsal with the band, he is compared to him by Fletcher. Andrew has posters of Buddy Rich on his walls and on his drum kit to remind him that it is never enough – you have to work through blood, sweat and tears in order to become somebody.
The spirit of Buddy Rich and his dedication is all around present throughout the movie. Unfortunately, the same spirit that drives Andrew to strive for perfection ruins his personal life and pushes him into a dangerous mental state that borders unhealthy obsession. Not everyone can be Buddy Rich but Andrew Neiman sure as hell tries.