The Roommate, at its heart, is very much a crowd-pleasing movie. That is if it’s a crowd full of morons who wouldn’t know what a good film was if it was staring them in the face. To everyone else this is shoddy piece of film-making masquerading as a psychosexual thriller.
Sara (Minka Kelly) is a college freshman at a school doubling for UCLA, fresh off the bus from Iowa, with dreams of being a fashion designer populating her life and her sketchbook. Things seem to be going extraordinarily well for her, too, as she has a brilliant professor (Billy Zane) with a personal interest in her and a brand new boyfriend (Cam Gigandet) who is the sort of sensitive, drum-playing frat boy that only exists in cinema. She has the world at her fingertips with only one exception: her roommate Rebecca (Leighton Meester) who has a hands-on approach to friendship. And by hands on, the implication is that she is obsessed with Sara in a most unhealthy way that culminates in what is intended to be a shocking manner. But it’s anything but that.
The Roommate has more problems with it than it does successes, mainly starting with its cast. In particular its two leads seem to be in two different films. Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester are both veterans of television, Friday Night Lights and Gossip Girl respectively, but they seem woefully miscast in their respective parts. Meester has excelled at playing both innocent as well as somewhat clueless, most recently in Country Strong, whereas Kelly seems a bit too wise in the ways of the world to be playing what’s essentially an innocent character. It’s not surprising that she was supposed to be in the role of Sara, eventually being shifted over to the role of Rebecca, and the film would be that much more interesting if she’d stayed in the original role. She doesn’t have the mannerisms or surety of character to play a mentally ill woman with any sort of conviction; she has plenty of talent as an actress but not in this particular manner. And that seems to be the recurring theme of this film: plenty of talent but little in execution.
There’s plenty of moments in the film when it could be interesting and good, or at least not painfully awful, but this is a film presented as a psycho-sexual thriller in the manner of Black Swan (which it aspires to be in a way) as opposed to being a low-rent version of Single White Female (which it is) that isn’t very thrilling nor is it very sexual. Given a PG-13 rating when the material would flourish with an R, the film tries to skirt around provocative material when it ought to be embracing it. This is a film full of cheeky melodrama that should be going way over the top with it but tries to subdue this element to maintain a serious façade. This is a film demanding to be over the top and ludicrous, with actresses going so completely over the top that they make the cast of Showgirls look tame in comparison, that tries to be serious. It gets to be almost comical in this regard, as if the film actually is a comedy but no one told the cast about it and this is the result.
With as much melodrama as this film has it doesn’t have much in terms of plot or story. This is a film that has a set path that it barrels down with remarkable ease, bypassing some plot paths that could’ve taken The Roommate into different territory than the familiar paths it chooses. There’s nothing new, unique or original to the film’s plot, story or characters. It’s as if they took the outline to the “crazy roommate” and used it as a script. With the academic setting there are plenty of different angles that could’ve been taken but they get bypassed all too often for the familiar. In different hands this could’ve been a serviceable thriller, perhaps even provocative given the right hands, but unfortunately the wrong hands are all over this.
Director: Christian E. Christiansen Notable Cast: Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Danneel Harris, Cam Gigandet, Billy Zane Writer(s): Sonny Mallhi
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.