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The Roommate

Director: Christian E. Christiansen
Cast: Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, Cam Gigandet

(US DVD: 17 May 2011)

Everyone wants a piece of Sara (Minka Kelly)—her ex-boyfriend, her new boyfriend, her professor, the girls in her dorm and, as the title of the movie so unsubtly suggests, her new roommate Rebecca (Leighton Meester). Unfortunately, nowhere in The Roommate does anyone explain why. 


It can’t be her good looks, because apparently, according to the film, every girl in college is unbelievably hot. It can’t be her money, because she’s just a small-town girl from the Midwest, so simple and innocent that she’s actually surprised to discover someone would actually spike the punch at a frat party. And it certainly isn’t her wit, because neither she nor the movie has even a glimmer of it. But this should all be expected from yet another teen flick that so unabashedly copies a much more intriguing, intelligent film that it counts on its target audience to have never seen: in this case Single White Female.


Anyone who has ever seen (or even heard the basic premise of) the aforementioned 1992 classic will know exactly what The Roommate has to offer, at least as far as its plot design: a normal girl trying to move forward in life winds up living with another girl who turns out to be psychopathically obsessed with her, and a few people (not to mention a cuddly pet) end up dead before everything is sorted out. That’s it. 


However, unlike its predecessor, The Roommate does not even attempt to provide a plausible explanation for said psychopath’s unseemly behavior, except for some clichéd nonsense about her not taking her “medication”.  Yet, if one can say something close to complimentary about The Roommate, it’s that Leighton Meester pulls off playing a slick psycho with a slightly tantalizing believability. It’s too bad writer Sonny Malhi and director Christian E. Christiansen thought instilling their film with anything approaching in-depth psychological motivation would be too distracting for their exercise in superficiality.


Usually a “horror” movie lacking in substance or originality tries to make up for it in blood and gore ... senseless, yes, but at least mildly entertaining. Not The Roommate. Maybe its beautiful costars (including Cam Gigandet as the popular-yet-sensitive boyfriend Stephen, Danneel Ackles as lesbian fashionista Irene, and Billy Zane as the famed yet unethical Professor Roberts) didn’t want to get themselves dirty, or maybe the producers preferred their money to go towards hairspray and lipstick instead of special effects. 


Most likely, everyone knew the film was so bad that they needed to ensure its PG-13 rating so that they could cash in on the cluelessness of as many early adolescents as possible. If making money was their motive, it worked. With a budget of only $16 million, The Roommate made up almost the entirety of its costs in its opening weekend alone and even managed to move into the number-one spot at the box office. Just pray that doesn’t delude Sony/Screen Gems into investing in a sequel.


Just as with its theatrical debut, The Roommate’s DVD release isn’t receiving much of a marketing campaign, and it doesn’t come with much in the way of additional special features. There are some deleted and alternate scenes, which one knows aren’t going to be of much interest if they were relegated to the cutting floor of a movie of such low caliber, as well as the director’s commentary, which actually makes watching the film more bearable than the listening to the asinine script alone. 


In addition, there’s the (thankfully) brief “Obsession: The Making of The Roommate,” interviews with the cast, and even a short feature focusing on the film’s fashions, which are as bland as the rest of the movie. Still, by renting or buying The Roommate, all one will gain is the knowledge that he or she has just helped some undeserving soul in Hollywood earn an extra buck for keeping the standards of the film industry as low as possible.

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Sabadino Parker has been writing for PopMatters since 2000. A lifelong writer from Connecticut, Sabadino's weekly syndicated DVD review column, "Getting Reel," has appeared in local newspapers for almost a decade, and his fiction and poetry have been published in both print and online media. Having recently earned his Masters in English from Trinity College, Sabadino is hoping to amass a collection of degrees to match that of his comic books. He is currently the editorial manager for The Scene Magazine and owns Sparker Media, a freelance writing, editing, and online marketing company. He is currently at work on his second novel, which should see the light of day sometime in 2012. Feel free to e-mail Seb at sebparker@yahoo.com.


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6 Feb 2011
What The Roommate needs are overtones, undertones, or any kind of off-kilter menace more complex than "OMG, Rebecca is totally nuts!"
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