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THE ROOMMATE, 2011
College student Sara (Kelly) finds her safety jeopardized after she's assigned to a dorm room with a new roommate, Rebecca (Meester).
Release Date: 4 February 2011
“Two thousand colleges. Eight million roommates. Which one will you get?”
That is the tagline for Danish filmmaker Christian E. Christiansen’s new thriller, which exposes the horrors of university dorm life in Los Angeles.
Derek Jeter’s girlfriend Minka Kelly plays innocent Sara Matthews, a new student at the fictional University of Los Angeles. An interesting institution, ULA does not seem to feature any minority students enrolled in their classes or on campus. Strange, even for L.A. But, nevermind. This isn’t a Spike Lee joint.
Gossip Girl Leighton Meester plays her psychotic new roommate, Rebecca Evans. Meester brings genuine creepiness to the role in that her coy good looks are overshadowed by her character’s demented persona. We never truly discover what created the Dark Side to Rebecca. Some may consider that lazy storytelling and incomplete characterization. But Meester succeeds in pulling it off as an aspect of Rebecca’s secretive privacy.In fact she is far more interesting that the sweet and good-natured Sara over whom she is disturbingly obsessed. Minka Kelly is a natural beauty, being the offspring of an exotic dancer and an Aerosmith guitarist. She has made Maxim’s Hot 100 list two years in a row and Esquire magazine named her the Sexiest Woman Alive in 2010. In fact, she is so remarkably good looking she managed to portray a freshman dormmate despite being thirty years old.
But the personality of her character is just so painfully hospitable; it is immediately puzzling that a character as diabolically complex as Rebecca would find her so engaging. Sure, Rebecca, your roommate is beautiful, but is she really worthy of all of this dangerous attention?
Even more mystifying is Sara’s inexplicable attraction to fratboy Stephen (Cam Gigandet), who scrunches more muscles in his forehead throughout this movie than James Dean did in his entire career. Here’s an idea for a drinking game: do a shot each time Stephen mentions his frathouse. You should be wasted by the credits.
Granted, horror movies and thrillers bring out the absolute worst in me. For reasons that are obvious, I want every character to suffer a graphic and most undignified death. So, it is not unusual for me to root for Rebecca as she single-handedly terrorizes this boring collection of trendy socialites.
That is until she disposes of Sara’s new kitten by way of university laundry machine. It is not because I am an animal lover that causes such fury whenever a film takes an opportunity to kill off an animal, especially a cute and cuddly kitten (the cat’s name was Cuddles, for crying out loud). It angers me because it is a cheap shot on the part of the filmmaker; an easy way to manipulate hatred against the film’s nemesis.
Despite all of the sorrow heard in the audience preceding Cuddles’ inevitable demise, no one can say they were truly surprised by this sequence. As soon as the cat showed its whiskers on the big screen, the entire audience knew Rebecca was going to make a dartboard out of him or something.
But the most unforgivable sin “The Roommate” commits is its blatant similarity to Barbet Schroeder’s 1992 thriller, “Single White Female”, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh. The main difference between the two is that “SWF” features an insecure friendship between two working professionals instead of college students. The always reliable Leigh portrays Hedy Carlson, who idolizes Fonda’s Allie Jones to the point that she intends to usurp her roommate’s life.
The chain of events is almost identical. Allie’s puppy is murdered by Hedy, who makes it look like an accident (Rebecca tells Sara that Cuddles ran away). And by stealing her roommate’s clothes and replicating her appearance, Hedy manages to rape and kill Allie’s fiancé. Take a wild guess what happens when Sara’s ex, Jason (Matt Lanter) shows up unannounced for a chance to reconciliate.
It is one thing to pay homage to an earlier film’s style and narrative content. But it’s another thing to rip it off entirely, unless it’s a remake, which “The Roommate” might as well call itself.
There are a couple of startling shots that will probably make you jump if you decide to see “The Roommate” in theaters. But if you don’t, do yourself a favor and rent “SWF” instead. At least, Fonda and Schroeder understood the importance of nudity in a film like this.