Amy dreams of hosting her own cooking show. Amy also has an intense infatuation with her reclusive neighbour, a has-been actress played by Carrie-Anne Moss (how meta) with the divine name of Saffron. Saffron now makes a living as a sex columnist despite the fact that she has no discernible sex life. Or she at least lacks one until her neighbor tries to spice things up, as Amy slaves all day in the kitchen to please the woman named for the most divine of spices.
Compulsionis told in a framed narrative that sees Amy recount her gradual friendship with Saffron to a detective (Joe Mantegna) who is investigating the neighbour’s disappearance. Detective Reynolds displays the poorest of investigatory skills—Mantegna is clearly mailing himself in from the set of “Criminal Minds”—and fails to notice the bizarre behaviour of the woman whom he is interviewing. She’s cooking for four when the table’s set for two; her dinner guests never seem to arrive, etc. Reynolds, however, does note that she’s more concerned for her soufflé than for her missing friend. Compulsion builds to an inadvertently hilarious climax as Amy’s story works its way to the main course. It puts the “gas” in gastronomy.
The food looks delectable, but the film that accompanies the mouth-watering goodies. Amy will begin a meal by placing a plate of organic partridge before her husband, Fred (Kevin Dillon), as she tries to win over his philistine taste buds with her culinary skills. Fred then sweeps aside his plate and decides that he’d rather eat Amy. Right there on the dining room table, which receives a clear view from Saffron’s window.
The clunky reveal of Saffron’s is marked by frequent interludes that highlight Amy’s increasing mania. Fantasy sequences let Amy show off her cooking skills in a range of busty haute couture as she flirts with imaginary audience members and teaches them how to win a heart by pleasing the stomach. The fantasy interludes almost elevate Compulsion to the level of so-bad-it’s-good camp thanks to Graham’s hilariously loony scene-chewing as she shucks oysters and acts extra saucy. Heather Graham is clearly having a ball. Graham is a joy to watch.
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Less of a guilty pleasure are the interludes for Saffron. Compulsion features several bizarre flashbacks that reveal Saffron’s insecurity from her days as a young actress. Issues of body image, anxieties for perfection, and the exploitation of the casting couch gave Saffron an ongoing eating disorder that prompts hysteria from her neighbour whose rack of lamb go untouched. The flashbacks might explain why Amy force feeds Saffron, but they don’t do much to illuminate why Saffron might find the dumpster diving a turn on.
Compulsion provides a silly erotic thrillmpulsion, a remake of the 1995 South Korean Film 301, 302 set in New York City. shoddy, as Saffron’s apartment resembles a college dorm common room refashioned anew. Likewise, one scene sees the camera jolt with a jerk as it sticks catches before going in for a pan. The film is embarrassingly cheap and can’t justify the star-power before and behind the camera.