The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"THE ROOMMATE"

The Roommate
Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester are not exactly BFFs.

Psychological thrillers are like pieces of music: they require beats and rhythm. The Roommate has plenty of beats, but no rhythm. What I mean is that stuff technically happens here, it just doesn't add up to anything even remotely resembling suspense. In fact, the movie seems intent on sabotaging itself and proving how un-suspenseful it can be. It is a master class in ineptitude.

The plot in a nutshell: Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly) is a college freshman who gradually discovers that her roommate, Rebecca (Leighton Meester), is psychotically obsessed with her and jealous of anyone who competes for her attention. Right from the start, The Roommate feels like it's crossing off items from a to-do list. Sara becomes friends with Tracy (Aly Michalka), a party girl with a prominent belly ring. She finds a new boyfriend, Stephen (Cam Gigandet). She becomes the protégé to her Tim Gunn-esque fashion professor (Billy Zane). She adopts a stray kitten. She asks Rebecca not to touch a cherished necklace that belonged to her late sister.

With all those elements now in place, Rebecca is ready to go off the deep end. Here are some questions for you: How do you think she intimidates Tracy into backing away from Sara? How do you think she feels about Sara's new boyfriend? Should the professor watch his back? What do you suppose happens to that kitten? Is she going to take and wear the necklace at some point? Congratulations - you've just seen The Roommate without even having to see it.

There is only one word to describe this picture, and that word is "plagiarism." Beat for beat, it blatantly rips off Single White Female. As you will recall, in that film Jennifer Jason Leigh plays a psychologically unhinged woman who becomes obsessed with her roommate (Bridget Fonda) and tries to transform herself into a carbon copy of her, getting rid of anyone who interferes in the process. That's exactly what happens here. There is a scene in SWF where the psycho harms her roomie's pet. That happens too. The most famous scene has Leigh dressing up as Fonda's doppelganger and crawling into bed with her unsuspecting boyfriend. Guess what? Rebecca does pretty much the same thing here (although it's with an ex this time). And, of course, there's the requisite climactic fight between the two women. Really, it's the same movie, except that Single White Female was scary and The Roommate is just a heaping pile of shite.

Familiarity is not the only reason why the movie doesn't work. Sonny Mallhi's screenplay fundamentally doesn't even try to justify Rebecca's behavior. She's kooky from the very first scene. For most of the running time, we have no idea why she is the way she is, or why she becomes so strangely attached to Sara. When an explanation finally comes pretty late in the game, it's the usual vague nonsense about not taking her medication. Because there is no real basis for her behavior, Rebecca is not menacing. The script throws in a few scenes to try to show us that she's a monster, including a totally superfluous moment in which, apparently realizing she hasn't terrorized anyone in a while, she attacks a gas station attendant. That comes out of nowhere and doesn't help the cause.

And, oh, the acting! (Or should I say, the "acting.") Leighton Meester is given absolutely zero to work with, so Rebecca comes off more like a really annoying chick than a psychopath. Minka Kelly is certainly gorgeous, but she's got this monotonous Valley Girl vibe that prevents her from projecting the sort of terror that might make us care about Sara's well being. I kept expecting her to tell Rebecca, "OMG, you are totally being, like, such a bitch!" Then there's Cam Gigandet, who gives the worst performance, hands-down. In his early scenes, he makes a lot of overdone aren't-I-cute? puppy dog faces at Kelly. I initially attributed it to his character trying to be flirtatious with the new girl. But then he proceeds to do the whole movie that way!

I haven't even mentioned the offensively stereotypical lesbian character, who is never given the courtesy of a proper introduction, and who is here simply to be willing to engage in casual sex with a stranger the moment the plot requires her to. Or the murky cinematography, which makes the images look like they were shot through a filter of toxic sludge. Or the choppy editing that makes it difficult to tell what you're looking at during certain scenes. Or the age-old horror movie cliché that pops up in the film's final minutes, eliciting groans as it rears its ugly head. Well, okay, I've mentioned them now.

I have a long-standing policy of never saying "don't see this movie," because I recognize that other people may have opinions and tastes different from mine. So I'll just say this: I've warned you. If you spend your hard-earned money to see The Roommate, you have only yourself to blame.

( out of four)


The Roommate is rated PG-13 for violence and menace, sexual content, some language and partying. The running time is 1 hour and 33 minutes.