The Roommate (2011)
Directed by: Christian E. Christiansen, Richard Robertson
Written by: Chris Bylsma, Nick Bylsma, Richard Robertson, Sonny Mallhi
Starring: Billy Zane, Cam Gigandet, Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly
RUNNING TIME:91 mins
DISTRIBUTED BY:Sony Pictures
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Sarah Matthews, a design major, is moving into her dormitory. She goes to a frat party with some of her new friends where a guy lamely tries to pick her up. Upon returning to her room, she finds that she has a new roommate-Rebecca. For a brief period they become the best friends, but Rebecca seems to not only start to copy Sarah but becomes increasingly clingy and resents any time Sarah spends with anybody else. When Rebecca terrifies an old friend who asked Sarah to move in with her into leaving Sarah alone, Sarah realises she has to shake off Rebecca’s control, but that’s not going to be easy………
I have a feeling I’m going to have some trouble writing this review, because The Roommate is in some ways the hardest kind of film for me to write about. It’s extremely bland and uninteresting, but it’s certainly not a piece of garbage. Most of its elements, from the acting to the direction, are of a perfectly acceptable standard, the trouble is, they hardly ever rise above that. What we have is a film that is so average that it seems like it was made by a committee of robots. Personally I’d rather watch a film where some things are done really badly than a film like this, where, because everything is at the same level of dull mediocrity, I didn’t find much to enjoy. This movie is entirely devoid of personality, and therefore not really of much interest. The Roommate is, of course, Single White Female for the teen set in the way that Swimfan was virtually Fatal Attraction. I’m not adverse to films using ideas from others if they bring something new to the table, and the idea of someone being obsessed with somebody else remains of interest and is full of interesting angles and possibilities for filmmakers to use. The Roommate doesn’t use any of them and pretty much wastes its premise.
After a cringe-inducing sequence at a frat party where Sarah brushes off one of the lamest chat up lines ever but still gives signs she’s interested in the guy, she goes back to her room and sees Rebecca lying on a bed, in a well done bit that actually gives the impression that this movie could become rather good. Soon after that Rebecca starts to do things like colour her hair like Sarah’s, wear a necklace of hers, and put a huge poster up on the wall of The Devil Wears Prada because it’s Sarah’s favourite movie. This is all pretty run of the mill, especially because Sarah doesn’t seem too bothered by all this, but we soon have a pretty good scene where Tracy, the friend who wants Sarah to move in with her, is in the shower. She hears something and goes to have a look, then she hear something in the shower, but when she goes back in there’s nothing there. Of course then she’s attacked. It’s obvious, cliched, slasher movie type stuff but quite well constructed by director Christian E.Christiansen. Soon after that the boyfriend Stephen is in a library and hears a female voice whisper his name, and the scene’s almost creepy. However, just when you think the movie’s going to take off, it slows to a halt and tension seems to diminish rather than increase. The twists and turns of the story are easily predicted but worse seem to take forever to play out and are handled in a rather dull manner. It all ends in a rather good brutal knockabout in Sarah’s room, but it comes too late to save the movie.
There’s a real timidity about this film, it was obviously made for a safe American ‘PG-13’, but scenes like the one killing in the film, a sex scene intercut with Rebecca ‘enjoying’ herself and another scene where you think there’s going to be a rape or at least some sex but there isn’t, are so tame that I’m surprised the movie didn’t get a ‘12’ over here, considering some of the movies that do! There’s one bit where Rebecca puts a cat in a washing machine, and you don’t even see her turn it on, nor an aftermath later on where the cat’s body is discovered. Of course a film like this doesn’t automatically need to have graphic violence, sex or horror, and can go for a more psychological approach, but The Roommate doesn’t really do that either. Write Sonny Mallhi actually creates a potentially interesting psychopath in Rebecca, but fluffs it because he obviously can’t decide what to do with her or indeed what she is, nor is she at all rounded. She never even engages our sympathy, something I was really hoping for. Her interest in Sarah doesn’t appear to be sexual, but why have a stupid and pointless scene where she snogs a lesbian in a club toilet and goes home with her? Now I really dislike political correctness, but there’s something wrong about the way that Mallhi obviously said to himself “how do I make this strange scary girl more strange and scary?-O I know what, I’ll have a scene where she’s a lesbian”. Then again, none of the characters are written very well- Sarah seems extremely flirty at first, especially with the way she all but ‘comes on’ to a teacher [a typically dreadful Billy Zane] so she can be in his class, but nothing is made of this. Stephen starts off as a real male sexist pig, than becomes the de-facto male ’hero’, but Sarah never seems to comment on his rapid change. There’s a lengthy sequence around the middle where Rebecca brings Sarah to her house to meet her parents. They seem a little odd, and lots of ominous music plays [despite nothing much happening] to give us the impression that there are going to be some major sequences and plot reveals in this house, as well as offering two potentially interesting new characters. NOTHING happens and we soon return to the college. O no, sorry, we find out Rebecca takes pills for ‘something’. Wow, big ****ing deal.
As an honest reviewer, I have to admit that one of the things that attracted me to watching The Roommate was the rather lovely Leighton Meester and the certainly-not-bad-looking Minka Kelly. Meester actually doesn’t do badly as Rebecca-it’s not her fault that the character is so abysmally written-but scenes where she stares intensely at Sarah do come across at more funny than anything else. Kelly is okay and no more. There’s a plethora of songs, while composer John Frizzell works overtime to create some suspense, but it becomes slightly laughable, because after a while you know he’s just wasting his time and things won’t pay off. I wish to emphasise that The Roommate is never terrible, it’s probably ideal for its target audience who will probably spend half the movie texting anyway and therefore won’t miss much of interest. I’m sure I will see far worse films this year. It reeks of blandness and compromise though, and those are two of my least favourite terms to use whilst describing a film. Well, I did manage to write this review with no trouble, and I’ll finish it with the thought I had whilst leaving the cinema. How much better it would have been if the story had been told from Rebecca’s point of view, not Sarah’s.