A Forgettable Psycho Roommate Tale

Movie Review: The Roommate (2011)
Summary: A college student finds that her new roommate has an obsession with her, which quickly turns violent.
Spoilers: none


The Roommate, starring Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, and Cam Gigandet is the umpteenth rebirth of the psycho girl film phenomenon that says in almost so many words and circumstances: “The pretty heroine; blessed with beauty, cursed with psychosis.”

There was Single White Female (1992) about a woman who places an ad to room with another female and lands a psycho, but psycho obsession movies vary in type, and yet are pretty much still the same. Obsessed (2009), The Crush (1993), and before that, Fatal Attraction (1987), follow in theme, and in doing so, attract audiences almost regardless of their quality or lack thereof. The fascination with psychos is forever an obsession to the healthy mind.

“Sara” (Minka Kelly) begins her freshmen year at college when she meets her new roommate, “Rebecca” (Leighton Meester). What starts out as a very energetic interest taken to secure Sara’s attention with a close involvement in her life and activities becomes a task involving stalking, manipulating, seducing, intimidating, and otherwise isolating Sara from anyone who monopolizes her time.

When Sara’s friends quickly detect that something is wrong (and only Sara chooses to look to the reasons why the worst case scenario may be an exaggeration), the audience is then subjected to the superficial ensemble of Sara’s boyfriend, “Stephen” (Cam Gigandet) and his band and nights out for dinner and concerts, as the plot slowly escalates to Rebecca’s unmedicated mental collapse to the necessary point of decay to, you know, have a movie.

The humdrum story build-up and graphic-lacking display of Rebecca’s out-of-control behavior have earned The Roommate a justly deserved reputation as a flop. Scene after scene of beautiful girls socializing, bathing, girl-talking, or in some way preparing to socialize, add up back to back and begin to drag on.

Our two main girls look and sound so much alike that when shuffled in and out in the development of the story, it is at first hard to make out who is who (not that you really care too much anyway, but you wished you cared about these chicks who are nearly as floozy with each other as they are with the guys). But alas, we don’t.

It’s the same switching back and forth between scenes, between dorms and clubs, more dorms and clubs, and then Rebecca’s parents’ nice home. This is the spot you see in the trailer when Rebecca’s mother (Frances Fisher) creepily asks Sara: “Has she been taking her medication?” Ooh, suspense! Not that a mother would ask that of a virtual stranger she just met, but it happens here. Just about everything done by our beautiful psycho is undercut by a poor setup so that we don’t even care how sick she is.

To get back at a teacher for Sara, Rebecca goes after Professor Roberts (Billy Zane). The aftermath is unclear, leaving behind an underutilized character. In this toned-down psycho thriller with fewer thrills than a Merry-go-round, we do have one truly chilling and eye-opening exchange when Rebecca and Sara visit a tattoo parlor. Rebecca has the word “Emily,” Sara’s dead sister, tattooed on a breast and proceeds to tell Sara: “Now I can be your new little sister!”

The Roommate has just about all of the necessary elements to be a creepy, ice-cold psycho flick. Our beautiful nutcase will stalk you, cry on queue to sell a bogus story, kill animals, and basically kill on command—and she’ll frame innocent people and otherwise manipulate situations to her advantage. Meester doesn’t play a terrible psycho. In fact, she has that distant, curious stare. But in the direction things are taken, nothing is allowed to work.

The film does generate a mild amount of interest in portraying one thing: psychos simply cannot hide their twisted behavior for long. But this is as far as we can go in compliments. The murder scenes have as little drama as they have blood. There is no sense of terror or concern for anyone. This rather boring, no-boundary-pushing, under-dramatic charade of wannabe college psychodrama should be evicted.

(JH)

Grade: D- (1 star)
Rated: PG-13 (for intense scenes of death and peril)
Director: Christian E. Christiansen
Starring: Leighton Meester “Rebecca,” Minka Kelly “Sara Matthews,” Cam Gigandet “Stephen,” Alyson Michalka “Tracy Mrgan,” Danneel Harris “Irene,” Frances Fisher “Rebecca’s Mom,” Tomas Arana “Rebecca’s Dad,” Billy Zane “Professor Roberts”
Genre: Drama / Thriller
Trailer

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