A film review by Craig J. Koban May 25, 2011



2011, PG-13, 93 mins.


Leighton Meester: Rebecca / Minka Kelly: Sara / Cam Gigandet: Stephen / Aly Mitchalka: Tracy / Billy Zane: Professor 


Directed by Christain E. Christiansen / Written by Sonny Mallhi

THE ROOMMATE is one kind of double threat.  It’s not just a putrid film, but it's also a rip-off that manages to not have one inkling of an original thought or idea all throughout its scant 90-plus minutes.  Few films as of late - even the regrettable ones that I have screened - have not managed to be as wholly unoriginal and fundamentally lacking in imagination as this one.  There is no real reason for THE ROOMMATE to exist, other than to jump up and proclaim that it is another lamentable entry in the long, long list of films belonging to the fill-in-the-blank-from-hell genre.   You know, the cop from hell, the lover from hell, the neighbor from hell, and, in this film’s case, the roommate from hell. 

Of course, any viewer with half of a brain could easily deduce that THE ROOMMATE is a thinly veiled – make that wafer thin - copy of SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, and on one level, THE ROOMMATE deserves dubious credit for not straying away from that film’s conventions and formulas.  It’s almost frightening how studied THE ROOMMATE is of its 1992 predecessor, considering that both films involve girlfriends, both involve one that develops an unhealthy fixation on the other, and, hell, both films involve their villains copying the appearance of their prey in the most minute detail (in THE ROOMMATE’s case, its female antagonist goes as far as to duplicate her victim’s above the breast tattoo that contains the name of her dead sister….creeeepppy).  THE ROOMMATE does not contain any boiled rabbits, ala FATAL ATTRACTION, but it does offer one sickening scene of animal cruelty involving an itsy, bitsy, cuddly kitten that will have feline lovers running to the theatre exists. 

I guess if you just take SINGLE WHITE FEMALE’s plot and transplant it to a shared college dorm then you get the idea.  Minka Kelly stars as an Iowan freshman student named Sara that arrives at a Californian college in hopes of becoming a fashion major.  What’s really unintentionally hilarious – and eye roll inducing – is that this film is yet another in a long series that casts woefully old actors and actresses in teenage parts.  If Sara is a freshman that would make her 18-plus, give or take; Kelly is 31-years-old and does not really come off as a plausible late teen. 

As Sara gets adjusted to her new dorm room she eventually meets her roommate, another actress much older than the character she plays, GOSSIP GIRL’s Leighton Meester (age: 26).  Rebecca, at least initially, comes off as a nice, quiet spoken, and friendly roommate that also happens to be a gifted artist, which as far as the annoying cliché of kooky college artists goes, means that she is really an unhinged and fanatical-minded freak deep down inside.   Yet, both Sara and Rebecca become quick confidants, especially because Becky makes Sara’s transition to college life less arduous.  She also becomes a person that Sara can confide in, especially about hurtful personal details in her life, like how her sister died young and how her ex-boyfriend constantly calls her on her cell, which all but means that the ex is going to be toast by the end of the film.   

Sara does make some other friends, though: She hooks up with an avid partygoer named Tracy (Aly Mitchalka) and becomes really close with a dreamy frat boy/drummer with the obligatory heart of gold name Stephen (the nearly 30-year-old Cam Gigandet).  Despite the fact that Sara begins to gel well with the people she meets at college, Rebecca begins to slowly reveal some decidedly anti-social attitudes about all of Sara’s other companions.  And I do mean anti-social, like how she stalks Tracy at one point in the shower, shoves her down to the tiled floor, and rips out her navel piercing.  Yes, this bitch is crazy.



Of course, all of Sara’s friends believe that Rebecca’s is a total nut job, but is a requirement of this film’s script that Sara does not find this out until it’s nearly too late.  Rebecca’s haunting obsession with Sara boils over into going above and beyond the normal principles of friendship, like the lengths she goes through to get Sara’s ex off of her back, not to mention how Rebecca deals with a slimy fashion professor (Billy Zane) that Sara looked up to, that is until he made a pass on her.  And, Jesus H, don’t get me started on what Rebecca does to that cute little cat.  It is found very early on during the film as a stray near the college and the rommies adopt it and bring it home, so you just know that it will not come out of this film alive with the Rebecca's predatory and possessive nature. 

The late-twenty and thirtysomething actors playing teens is laughable enough, but I found it equally incredulous to witness how this film’s college looks like every student just leaped off of the covers of either GQ or COSMOPOLITAN, making the campus appear like a runway more than an institution of higher learning.  It also does not help that the performances are howlingly bad and it chiefly appears that looks before thespian skills were the chief requirement.  Minka Kelly is as gorgeous of a screen presence as it gets, but her Sara is an empty vessel of a persona.  Cam Gigandet has a perpetually irritating habit of smugly smirking, squinting his eyes, and pouting through his entire performance.  Billy Zane shows up as the aforementioned fashion professor in a pure pay check performance where he has to spew out some of the film’s most outlandishly lame lines, like “Two things can’t be taught in this class: style and desire.”  Ouch. 

Then there is Meester, an actress I do not have much exposure to, and this film certainly does not give her much to do, other than to play a one-note and underdeveloped female stalker/sociopath with ample screws loose.  The character of Rebecca is one of the film’s puzzling question marks:  I mean, what is her personal story?  What made her how she is?  Why is she on meds?  Why is her family life back home so bad?  Why does she obsess over other girls so much?  Is she lesbian, bisexual, or just a masochistic deviant…or all of the above?  I think the film leans more heavily towards her homosexuality, which makes her character all the more potentially offensive as a stereotype.  Can’t straight people also be fundamentally deranged and homicidal stalkers? 

Perhaps the film could have been more titillating and interesting if it did make both Rebecca and Sara gay, seeing as you would have one healthily adjusted and comfortable in her sexuality and the other…well…not.  That, and the film’s limp-wristed PG-13 rating (sigh) is a wimpy copout for the underlining material; the only fun to be had with regurgitating the SINGLE WHITE FEMALE conventions perhaps would have been to make THE ROOMMATE an all-out, hard R-rated lewdfest.  Unfortunately, Danish director Christian E. Christiansen (real name, no shit, folks) opts for a personality free storyline that hits every methodical and preordained beat with mind-thumbing monotony.   From top to bottom, THE ROOMMATE lacks thrills, chills, erotic titillation, and, moreover, story interest altogether.  Few film thrillers are on pathetic autopilot as much this one appears to be, as THE ROOMMATE does not even seem willing to work itself above the wall-of-shame moniker of an excruciatingly disposable, B-grade, direct-to-video thriller.  It’s one thing for a film to lack ambition, but THE ROOMMATE is essentially a black hole-like vortex that sucks up ambition and innovation.


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