The Roommate
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The Roommate

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I have to say that I really enjoyed this film when I first watched it. Of course that was almost twenty years ago when it was released under the name ‘Single White Female’. The latest incarnation of the psycho killer living with you is ‘The Roommate’. It is pale echo of a truly taut, well conceived and expertly executed thriller. I can almost understand the trend towards reimagining a story or doing a remake of a classic theme but this film has little to justify its creation other than to provide a big screen vehicle for a couple of television teen series starlets. This is not a situation such as what is found with great literature were each generation deserves a chance to reinterpret ageless themes in their own fashion. This is more blatant is how the situations are transferred over to a slightly different setting with nothing added to with the conflict or character development. ‘Single White Female’ used two young women sharing a loft that many in New York City would gleefully kill for. Here there is a subset of the archetypes, the college roommates. Most of us have been in the position where there was more than a little friction with the stranger selected to live with us thanks to the matchmaking wisdom of the university housing authority. There is nothing novel about the idea that there are crazy people out there and s few might benefit from a strict interpretation of the Biblical admonition concerning covertness and your neighbor’s life. In ‘The Roommate the situation as explored is removed from reality by ignoring the most likely response; either switch rooms, change schools or perhaps call the police. The story does make a meager effort to explain away some of the more glaring objections but you are still left with having to suspend a lot of disbelief in order to eke out even a modicum of enjoyment with this flick. There was a minor interest in observing the variation in approaching the same story but a touch of originality would have been preferred. One thing about a movie such as this; it doesn’t take much to make it a success in the eyes of the studio executives. It recouped its $16 million on its opening weekend so even with a short theatrical run going on to more than doubling the investment. With the DVD and Blu-ray return and licensing for cable the producers made money here and that is what outs the business in show business.

Like millions of young people Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly has been waiting for this time to arrive for as long as she can recall; the start of her freshman year at college. After a lot of hard work she is ready to begin classes at the University of Los Angles. Screenwriter Sonny Mallhi take this early opportunity to introduce the ancillary characters each of which are readily in stock at Central Casting; just ask for the standard dormitory mix; believe me they have done this many times before. There is the party girl, Tracy Morgan (Alyson Michalka) and rock drummer wannabe, Stephen Morterelli (Cam Gigandet), just enough of a bad boy to qualify as the male romantic interest. The part of the psycho killer in training goes to Rebecca Evans (Leighton Meester). This actresses’ primary function here is to pull in teen girls who are fans of her television show; ‘Gossip Girls’, smile when anyone is watching and look increasingly menacing every time she is alone on the set. When considered by this criterion it has to be said that Meester did her job well but it still feels like she took the time to get ‘SWF’ on Netflix and study the performance given there by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Both of these attractive young women take the story through the three required acts; ‘golly she seems nice’, ‘sure that’s strange but I’m sure there’s an explanation’ and finally, ‘Oh my God she’s totally psycho. It is not like this flick does a whole lot that is outright wrong; from technical point of view the movie generally holds together better than the mindless slash and dash flicks that have all but consumed the horror and thriller market. It is just there are so many outright retreads of previous hit movies that I yearn for something that demonstrates a scrap of originality. The main appeal that this movie could possibly have is to allow the teen girls watching squeal with delight as identify one of the actors from their favorite teen soap operas making a cameo appearance here. More effort was put into stunt casting than actual plot or character development. While I am certain that the young ladies involved with this film have the best intension and are working to develop their acting chops but this is not as vehicle conducive to achieving that laudable goal.

In directing this Christian E. Christiansen doesn’t have much to grain traction. Not only is the theme so well explored but he has nothing here to provide any degree of suspense. The film comes off like a roller coaster ride where the designer forgot to pot in the peaks and sudden dips. You wind up hoping for a ride at Great Adventure and discover you just bought a ticket to a kiddy ride at the State Fair. The film is paced to move at a decent pace but it just gets stuck in the banality of the lackluster and predicable flow of the story. it could have been an acceptable beer and pizza flick but I cannot in good conscience endorse the amount of libations required to sit through this movie.

Posted 0511/11

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