Director Bille Woodruff comes from music videos, but most of his feature work has earlier antecedents: Honey is basically a put-on-a-show musical, Beauty Shop is an updated version of ensemble pictures like The Women, and now Addicted is basically a social-issue melodrama that, minus some curse words, thrusting, and frequent side nudity, could have emerged sometime in the ’50s.
Based on a bestseller by Zane, this 2014 version tackles sex addiction, although it doesn’t reveal its true subject right away. When the movie begins, Zoe (Sharon Leal) is happily married to Jason (Boris Kodjoe) with two kids, a nice house, and a glamorous (if faintly detestable) job helping artists market and monetize their personal brands. She and Jason even have a redundant call-and-response catchphrase of their own: “Our love is forever. Always has been, always will be.”
Despite her perfect life and triple-forever love, an impossibly stupid meet-cute with art star Quinton Canosa (William Levy) ends with Zoe giggling and babbling at his very glance, and the movie seems to be constructing a rudimentary love triangle. But Zoe’s subsequent extramarital dalliance with Quinton—her first affair and only her second romantic partner ever—brings out her demonically insatiable sexual desires, first hinted at in an earlier scene where Jason selfishly falls asleep after only two rounds of sex, denying her a third. She swears off Quinton, then returns to his well-appointed, painting-strewn loft to end things, only to wind up in bed again. This happens several times, and she finds other potential partners when her on-and-off tryst toggles back to the “off” position.
Addicted overheats these encounters enough to feel like it might turn into a stalker thriller at any moment. It comes close at least once, but never pulls the trigger, instead attempting to earnestly address the issue at hand. The movie still finds time to multitask, though, preaching about sex-addict recovery while stringing together steamy sex scenes and managing to reduce Zoe’s condition to a psychological problem rooted in her long-promised, late-deployed tragic backstory.
That backstory seems more pat and inevitable, because it’s predicted by Zoe’s therapist Dr. Spencer (Tasha Smith). Smith speaks with the over-enunciating cadence of a training video, though she may have just been following the unnatural rhythms of lines that explain how sex addiction is “a very real problem that thousands of people are facing every day.” The therapy scenes turn into duets of shaky acting, with Leal indulging a go-to move of wobbling her head back and forth to indicate stress, distress, indecision, and inner passion, among other emotions. Her domestic scenes don’t fare much better, because it’s hard to tell what the movie thinks of Jason, who’s presented as more or less an angel in human form.
Woodruff’s direction is smooth enough on a technical level, but the film’s storytelling has little dimension, even for a melodrama. Characters pop up conveniently and sometimes hilariously: It’s only revealed that Zoe’s mother (Maria Howell) lives with the rest of the family after Zoe has prepared a sumptuous dinner and dressed up sexy for Jason, who has to work late and cancels their date; on her way out of the house, Zoe runs into her mother, sitting on the couch and reading, apparently unaware of either the dinner or the attempted seduction. She spends most of the movie around that couch, because most people in Addicted spend their lives in a weird stasis, springing to life only when Zoe enters the room. It’s more life than the movie itself gets, at least; Addicted gradually replaces its old-fashioned issue drama with a preachy softcore lesson in recovery.