Thursday, September 22, 2011
The Roommate (2011)
The Roommate has several issues. The editing is questionable. It looks decent, but shots run too long and sometimes the transitions are iffy. The acting is usually flat, with both Kelly and Meester occasionally adopting an odd, clipped accent that makes one wonder what kind of direction they were given. Or why director Christian E. Christiansen was happy enough with those takes to settle on them. Both women can act – I've seen it – but one wouldn't be impressed by their performances here.
Yes, The Roommate is effectively a rip-off of Single White Female (1992), but with much less character development and a lesser cast. It is the dearth of the character development that grated on me, and what little of it the audience was given played as false. Small town (this is addressed below) girl Sara Matthews (Kelly) shows up at college with no fanfare. She doesn't get dropped off by family, which makes little sense. Then when roommate Rebecca Evans (Meester) shows up, she is already a little creepy (Christiansen actually cut footage of Rebecca being even crazier early on). The creepy just keeps getting ramped up, and her victims along the way get minimal screen time to show that they are marginally bad for Sara. Personally, I think the film would have greatly benefited from allowing Rebecca to have some time being more normal and letting her crazy be exacerbated by the stress of school and not quite fitting in with the other students. Rebecca's own sexuality is left too clouded; it doesn't need to be blatant, but it seems to confused with the notion of how to portray obsession. To paraphrase a line from the Friday the 13th: The Series episode "Mesmer's Bauble", 'I don't want to be with you...I want to be you' – that is a better way of separating the sexual tension from the reality of obsession.
There are also some very bad false assumptions that hamper the story. First of all, Des Moines, Iowa, is not a quite little town. It certainly is a speck in comparison to Los Angeles, but it has some pretty rough areas and with a metro area population of over half a million, it really is part of urban American. Director Christiansen goes on to admit in the commentary that he doesn't really know where Des Moines is, but assumed that it was in the "countryside". Then there is the entire matter of Sara wanting to get into design but applying to Brown – not the Rhode Island School of Design, and her boyfriend applying to Brown – but settling for USC stand-in ULA. There is the matter that openly gay designer Irene doesn't have any interest in Sara but immediately tries to get with Rebecca when given the chance.
I would caution anyone who wants to see this movie to find something within it to distract you from the slow moving action and lack of dramatic tension. It will help mitigate your disappointment.