There's a moment of mild levity at the beginning of The Roommate, during the opening credits, when the titles announce that this is a Vertigo Entertainment Production, following which a bright yellow cab takes a turn into Sunset Blvd. Within seconds, two of the most hallowed works of Hollywood art are announced by accident, at the top of a film that knows as much as its audience that “work of art” isn't amongst its reasons to be.
It isn't that this thriller sub-genre — you could call it Cape Fear with coeds, with one young woman fighting to escape the maniacal obsession of another — cannot strive to be art. When Barbet Schroeder made Single White Female, the grandmommy of these thrillers, in 1992, he was fresh off the critical highs of The Charles Bukowski Tapes and the Oscar-anointed Reversal of Fortune, and his story was steeped in psychological and sexual undertones. It wasn't just about a generic twenty-something struggling with a generic stalker. They were characters from a drama who just happened to be trapped in a slightly generic thriller.
The Roommate, however, is completely generic — the women, now, are played by Leighton Meester (as Rebecca) and Minka Kelly (Sara); you could swap one for the other and it would make no difference — and comparing it with Single White Female is possibly the only way to escape the tedium inflicted by director Christian E. Christiansen, who transplants the action from the East Coast to the West Coast, but otherwise retains the pet in peril (a kitten here, like the puppy there), the doomed ex seeking forgiveness, and the dead sister.
The why-is-Rebecca-acting-crazy aspect (otherwise known as character motivation) which was so disturbing in the original (and all the more disturbing as played by the always-off-centre Jennifer Jason Leigh) is reduced to a single line about schizophrenia and bipolarism. Rebecca could be a demon from Jupiter's fifth moon and the movie wouldn't play any differently.
Now that that's explained away, the only thing to look forward to is the tension — but the goings on are so bloodless, so bland, the shut eyelids in the audience are more likely the result of sleep than scares. “The city is full of crazies,” a character warns Sara. That suggests a far more interesting movie, playing elsewhere. This city is full of bores.
Director: Christian E. Christiansen
Cast: Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, Cam Gigandet
Storyline: What's a girl to do when her roommate is unhealthily obsessed with her?
Bottomline: See the far-better Single White Female instead.
Keywords: The Roomate