Sony // 2011 // 91 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // May 23rd, 2011
Murder can really ruin a friendship.
I'm not sure there's a soul in the world who could be consistently scared by the flaccid efforts of Screen Gems' latest thriller, The Roommate. An extraordinarily vanilla affair, The Roommate takes pride in shamelessly recycling basic themes from over a half century of cinema, the result being a pot-boiler of immeasurable unoriginality. Peppered with a cast of hot television actors and helmed by a Danish director making his Hollywood debut, The Roommate is simply lifeless.
Sara (Minka Kelly, Friday Night Lights) is a college freshman, eagerly anticipating her first year at university. Her roommate is Rebecca (Leighton Meester, Gossip Girl), a talented artist who openly admits to having endured an affluent but tumultuous upbringing. The two form a close bond, Rebecca apparently possessing an overprotective streak, jumping to Sara's defense at even the faintest whiff of trouble. Eventually Rebecca's intense attachment starts to grow creepy, Sara's boyfriend Stephen (Cam Gigandet, Twilight) starting to fear for his partner's safety. When Sara begins to express an interest in moving out, Rebecca snaps, showcasing her rage in increasingly violent ways.
The Roommate isn't an offensively dreadful movie, but it is tedious. Director Christian E. Christiansen has constructed a photogenic endeavor, his glossy visual aesthetic and nubile young stars at least making the film easy on the eyes. The screenplay on the other hand is severely lacking in creativity, whilst the performances and boo moments are below average. Christiansen shows little aptitude for sustaining suspense, and the project's anemic PG-13 sensibility disallows any proper bloodshed or titillation. In that way The Roommateis comparable to another Screen Gems product of not so long ago, 2008's Prom Night. The Roommate isn't quite as ghastly overall, but both films suffer from an inherent lack of viscera, unhelpfully removing viable stakes and audience interest in one giant misjudged swipe.
Leighton Meester feels miscast as the production's clingy antagonist; even on a superficial level the actress appears too cute to be scary. As The Roommate unravels, Meester unapologetically ramps up the crazy, a foolish choice that renders her screeching turn during the finale almost comedic. Minka Kelly looks much too old to be a freshman (she's 30 in reality), and delivers a flavorless leading performance. In fairness the actress genuinely gives it a wholehearted try (she never resorts to cheesy cleavage shots or faltering damsel mode), but the character just isn't engaging, and Kelly doesn't yet possess enough skill to convert such a weakly written figure into a well formed screen persona.
The Roommate attempts to provide a buffet of genre set-pieces, but none of these unfold as intended. The most egregious misstep is a bloodless shower scene, in which a boisterous party girl (Aly Michalka, Easy A) is stalked through a dimly lit bathroom by Rebecca. Not only is the sequence derivative and tame, but it also goes out of its way to highlight the movie's lack of credibility as a horror picture. There's no gore evident, and more tellingly Christiansen's camera is seemingly desperate to get a decent shot of Michalka in the nude, but due to the imposed teen friendly rating he continuously has to control himself. When you consider these factors it actually becomes a pretty amusing scene to watch, but when analyzed against the director's intentions it's a total bust.
The Roommate of course concludes predictably, Christiansen closing the film with a muzzled burst of carnage, involving at least one character we barely know. I suppose 12-year-old girls might be spooked on occasion by what Screen Gems is pushing here, but they're genuinely the only demographic I can imagine this feature impressing.
The DVD comes with a commentary by Christiansen, which is actually an amiable enough listen. I have qualms concerning his directorial chops for sure, but Christiansen addresses the film pretty openly, his discussion concerning the movie's PG-13 constrictions particularly interesting. Also present are a bunch of deleted scenes, including a more ominous credits scrawl, as opposed to the upbeat opening the theatrical cut brandishes. Most of these scenes feel like pure filler, several virtually identical to moments in the motion picture itself.
The Roommate was decimated by critics and posted only a middling box-office return. It won't be remembered beyond this year, so there's no reason why you should bother checking it out.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted Scenes