A Formulaic Retread That Scored At The Box Office
The first thought I had after I watched the new tepid thriller “The Roommate,” directed by Christian E. Christiansen, (Crying for Love) during this past weekend was: “man, I hope the Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl,” since the Steelers knocked out my beloved New York Jets. The proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is the mindset I had when I sat down to watch what turned out to be an exhilarating Super Bowl XLV. Okay, I’ll leave my bitterness aside to get back to the review. The second thought I had, after I was walking back to my car when I left the theater was, “I liked this movie a whole lot better the first time I saw it when it was called “Single White Female.”
The first glaring flaw of this film is that the character of the mentally deranged roommate Rebecca Evans, portrayed by Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl), winds up being the most likable person in the film for approximately one third of the movie’s ninety-three minute runtime. The college freshman comes across as both a loyal friend and someone who possesses more than a modicum of intelligence. I’ll concede that first time screen writer Sonny Mallhi, in a film of this nature, had no choice but to structure the plot in the way that he did, but Rebecca’s conversion from caring friend to obsessive stalker seems forced.
I can envision Mallhi sitting in front of his word processor thinking to himself that he had reached a point in the script where he had to make Rebecca’s character turn to the dark side of emotional instability. To bad he couldn’t have added an interesting twist to a familiar tale. In addition, the characters of Rebecca’s parents, played by Frances Fisher (Golf in the Kingdom) and Tomas Arana (Mission London), are laughable and seem to serve no purpose other than to eat up some screen time. The acting of Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights), Cam Gigandet (The O.C.), Alyson Michalka (Bandslam), Billy Zane (Dead Calm), and a cameo by Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries), is solid. In this blogger’s opinion, the talents of both Zane and Dobrev were wasted on roles that could’ve been offered to aspiring actors and actresses out there who are trying to break into the business, because neither role was anything of substance. The musical score helmed by John Frizzell is appropriate and creates the right amount of tension in the necessary spots. What brings the entire film down is that, not only does it build at a pace that can be equated to a turtle racing a Corvette, but the filmmaker appears to be taking a feature film and turning it into a B-movie. So what exactly takes the film from being perhaps a piece of respectable cinema to the joke that it descends into? Well, it was the following: Warning, spoilers contained within the next three paragraphs.
Minka Kelly’s character of Sara Matthews is excited to be embarking on her new collegiate journey as a freshman at a California college. When she arrives at her room, surprise, surprise, her new roommate has not yet checked in. Initially, Sara wants to lay low and wait for her new roommate, but after the weakest persuading by some of her dorm mates, she decides to head to the obligatory frat party that seems to crop up in these types of films. Sara’s character follows in the tried and true tradition of those who have come before her, and proceeds to get intoxicated, only to be “rescued” by Cam Gigandet’s character of Stephen, in a manner that in my single days would most assuredly have ended with me being called a barrage of colorful words. He becomes Sara’s frat boy in shining armor, and naturally his reward for his gallant behavior is the first kiss of many to come.
Upon returning to the dorm, Sara discovers that her new roommate, Rebecca, has finally arrived. Of course, everyone knows what happens next. The two become virtually inseparable in a span of less than twenty-four hours, gossiping, shopping, and playing off one another as if they’ve known each other their entire lives. Even though Sara is supposed to be Rebecca’s new womb to tomb friend, when the offer to go to a club from Michalka’s character of Tracy comes up, Sara heads out leaving Rebecca behind. However, later that evening after she has been abandoned by Tracy who left with a guy she hooked up with (of course), the only person Sara thinks to reach out to is Rebecca who arrives to save her from a long walk back to campus. After that scene is completed the story flips and begins to showcase Rebecca doing some naughty things in order to protect, what she feels is, her extra special friendship with Sara.
Attacks in the shower; Rebecca pretending to be Sara, while engaging in what’s presented as a steamy phone call from an ex-boyfriend who desperately wants Sara back; blackmail; murder; and kidnapping; they are all elements that you as the viewer will see peppered throughout the film, all of which sound as if they have potential to give the film some oomph, but none of which are done in a manner which is scary enough or interesting enough…at least not for this blogger’s tastes. In the end, however, as far as Hollywood is concerned (I don’t blame them in the least – film-making is after all a business), the thing that The Roommate did best of all, was dominate this past weekend’s box office. It made $15,600,000. The entire budget of the film was $16,000,000, so with its attractive cast, and PG-13 rating for the parents who don’t want to send their children to a movie with a stronger dose of carnage, it should turn a nice profit for all involved. I am an avid movie watcher, and have gone back to watch films that I love multiple times over the years, but when The Roommate arrives on DVD it will not be one of them.