Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Roommate

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Danish Director Makes Dubious Debut with Brazen Rip-Off of Psychological Thriller

Single White Female (1992) was an intriguing psychological thriller released revolving around a young woman’s unhealthy attempt to ingratiate herself with her new roommate to the exclusion of all others. Her increasingly-bizarre behavior gradually escalated over the course of the film from dressing alike and adopting the same hobbies to killing their pet puppy and sabotaging the object of her obsession’s romantic relationship.
Ultimately, the disturbing compulsion was attributed to the deranged psycho’s having witnessed her identical twin’s drowning when they were 9. So, this belated attempt to bond so closely with a perfect stranger was explained as a perverted desire to recreate the closeness she had formerly felt with her late sibling.
The reason for such a detailed digression at the outset of this review is because The Roommate is basically a brazen rip-off of Single White Female, and a godawful one at that. The movie marks the English-language directorial debut of Christian Christiansen whose previous offerings were all in his native Danish. And screenwriter Sonny Mallhi inexplicably takes all the credit for the script despite an abundance of similarities to the aforementioned SWF.
Instead of being set in New York City’s fashion world, the story unfolds in L.A. where we find freshman Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly) making a smooth adjustment to college life, especially in terms of flirting and partying. The attractive fashion major from the Midwest is already dating a popular upperclassman (Cam Gigandet) and turning the head of a well-connected professor (Billy Zane) she wants as a mentor. And although under 21, she’s able to get into bars without proof simply because she’s “hot.”
The fly in the fun ointment is her profoundly-disturbed roommate, Rebecca (Leighton Meester), a one-woman wrecking crew who chillingly announces “I always wanted a sister” upon learning that Sara’s twin had died at, you guessed it, the age of 9. So, with manic abandon, Rebecca proceeds to monopolize Sara’s time while embarking on a transparent reign of terror aimed at ruining all of the poor girl’s relationships, whether that involves telling a suitor never to call Sara again, killing her cat Cuddles, or ripping a ring right out of the belly of her best friend, Tracy (Alyson Michalka).
As if the purloined plot isn’t infuriating enough, proving far more problematical than the thinly-veiled plagiarism is the atrocious acting, the slapdash editing, the absence of character development and the cringe-inducing dialogue. Who wants to have their patience tested by trite poster-speak like “The best designers push the boundaries!” especially when it’s delivered with an utter lack of conviction?
Still, the film’s biggest flaw of all is its failure to generate any tension, since a suspense thriller sans the element of suspense is apt to disappoint even an audience arriving with low expectations. Don’t be surprised if you’re the only person left in the theater when the lights come up, if fail to heed this warning.

Poor (0 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, menacing, violence and teen partying.
Running time: 93 Minutes
Distributor: Screen Gems

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