* (out of 5)
February 4 , 2011
Leighton Meester as REBECCA
Minka Kelly as SARA
Cam Gigandet as STEPHEN
Aly Michalka as TRACY
Danneel Harris as IRENE
Billy Zane as PROFESSOR ROBERTS
Directed by: Christian E. Christiansen
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
If you’re ever driving by a strip mall, and you see a restaurant called “No. 1 Gourmet Chinese Food,” you can be pretty damn certain that this restaurant is not gourmet and it is probably more closely associated with number two than number one. Similarly, the studio Screen Gems seems to almost guarantee that most of what they drop into theaters is anything but a gem.
Now there are exceptions, of course. “Quarantine” was a fine horror movie. “District 9” was fantastic, and it was even nominated for an Oscar. And I even found elements of “Burlesque” to be enjoyable. But for the most part, Screen Gems’ films are not gems. Instead, the studio should be more appropriately named Screen Turds for releasing movies like “Country Strong,” “Takers,” “Legion,” “The Stepfather,” “Obsessed”… Shall I go on?
“The Roommate” falls perfectly into the standard crappy line-up of PG-13 horror misfires from this studio. The story is painfully familiar… a small-town girl named Sara (Minka Kelly) goes off to college and is assigned a roommate named Rebecca (Leighton Meester). They become friends, but soon Sara realizes that Rebecca is not stable at all. Rebecca becomes unhealthily obsessed with Sara, and the relationship quickly becomes dangerous.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s practically the same plot as the early 90s thriller “Single White Female.” Only this one has lesser actors, a patchy script, bad direction, a wimpy PG-13 rating and takes place in a campus dorm rather than a trendy downtown department.
“The Roommate” tries to be serious. It tries really, really hard. Leighton Meester, who is simply adorable but really doesn’t have much else going for her as a movie star, is acting her guts out, but she’s ridiculous with her icy stares and her screaming passion. Sadly, she’s the powerhouse actor of the bunch, bolstered by phoned-in performances by Minka Kelly and Cam Giggity-giggity-gigandet.
The cast is a slate of eye candy that mines many of the teen angst broadcast schedule (Meester from “Gossip Girl,” Kelly from “Friday Night Lights” and Aly Michalka from “Hellcats,” with a dash of cameos from “The Vampire Diaries”). It’s a whole batch of people that are gorgeous to look at but have no depth or elicit any empathy.
The suspense isn’t suspenseful. The plot twists are transparent. The pacing of the film is rocky. And the movie has the subtlety of a gorilla with a jack-hammer. Billed as a thriller, “The Roommate” commits the great sin of PG-13ification. It pulls its punches too much. Were it not for some thematic elements, smoking and a completely titillation-free lesbian kissing moment, this film could easily stroll into PG territory. The thriller violence is so awkwardly handled, and punches are pulled at the worst moments that they never deliver anything on any emotional or sensory impact.
But the worst sin of “The Roommate” is the blatant plagiarism of the “Single White Female” story. There’s no reference to the original source material in the film’s credits or poster, not even as a second sequel (following the powerhouse direct-to-DVD release “Single White Female 2: The Psycho”).
In fact, there’s a famous pivotal scene in “Single White Female” featuring mistaken identity, oral sex and a stiletto heel that is shamelessly copied in “The Roommate” only without any sort of reason, logic or kinkiness we saw in the original. It just lies there on the screen like a slug covered in salt. Pathetic.
It is not often that I call a movie “laughable,” but having sat through this film in a theater populated with college students who couldn’t stop giggling at all of the supposedly creepy moments, I can honestly say “The Roommate” earned the description.