Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Roommate

Directed by Christian E. Christiansen.
2011. Rated PG-13, 91 minutes.
Leighton Meester
Minka Kelly
Cam Gigandet
Aly Michalka
Danneel Ackles
Billy Zane
Frances Fisher
Tomas Arana
Lauren Alfano

Although a college student, Sara (Kelly) is pretty dense. She’s the last co-ed on campus to realize that her new roommate Rebecca (Meester) is a few assignments short of a syllabus, if you know what I mean. Within thirty seconds of the two meeting, Rebecca becomes obsessed with Sara. Actually, obsessed is putting it mildly. She also becomes violent against anyone who spends any time with Sara. As you might imagine, Rebecca isn’t very popular.

For the next 90 minutes or so, we get a very tame and much dumber version of Single White Female. That movie is bolstered by a gutsy, decidedly adult tone even if it is merely a riff on Fatal Attraction. Bridget Fonda is sufficiently suspicious and eventually afraid of her roomy, as we are. It lacks much restraint and goes for gold whenever possible. The best thing it has is a skillful and deliciously over the top performance from Jennifer Jason Leigh in the psycho chick role. All of these things add up to a guilty pleasure. On the other hand, The Roommate is a watered down, stupid PG-13 rated mess inhabited by non-descript actors giving bland performances. This assessement excludes Billy Zane as the faux-chic, ultra-sleazy fashion design instructor. He's far from bland. Then again, hasn’t Billy Zane become a warning sign that you’re watching a bad movie?

Anyhoo, stupidity isn’t inherent is the premise of The Roommate. We’ve been thrilled by plenty of these types of movies. Stupidity comes from the handling of that premise. Having one character not realize something about another often works. It doesn’t work when the unknowing character is completely oblivious to even the most obvious signals. That’s just plain frustrating. Speaking of stupid, there’s Sara’s binge-drinking buddy Tracy (Michalka). I won’t say exactly what happens to her but it’s an uninspired take on a certain iconic scene in the classic Psycho. Yes, compared to that and most other films that label themselves “horror” and/or “thriller” Tracy’s ordeal is quite tame. The stupid part is she has a choice between two actions that most of us would take, or a third choice that only the most timid among us would even entertain. Of course, she shows all the backbone of a jellyfish then mostly disappears from the movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bigger girls aren’t still taking her lunch money.

If there is one daring thing The Roommate does it’s that it takes the lesbian subtext of SWF and pushes it to the forefront. Even this is botched, though. It’s not necessary to the plot or done with any other meaningful purpose. It’s simply there to try and recapture our attention with the most risqué thing the restrictive PG-13 rating will allow, a few seconds of a two pretty girls kissing. By the way, neither of which is Minka Kelly, so don’t get your hopes up. If anything, this serves as a reminder that this is a mostly a bloodless, sexless affair that can’t even manage to excite us horndog guys in the audience or scare anyone who has ever had a sibling or friend jump out at them and scream “boo!”

The Roommate is fairly unwatchable. It’s not good in any way, shape or form. It also lacks the balls to go all out and become a so bad it’s awesome experience. Instead, it just grates on you with its idiocy and predictability. We don’t like our heroine as much as we just can’t believe how dumb she is. As for our villain, Meester gives a game effort in the role but doesn’t seem like someone we can’t handle. Here’s an idea: skip this, find a copy of SWF and watch that, instead.

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