The Roommate (2011)
Screen Gems // PG-13 // $28.95 // May 17, 2011
Review by Brian Orndorf | posted May 12, 2011
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"The Roommate" is a dreadful motion picture, but do you really need me to tell you that? From top to bottom, the film is an unimaginative, unbearable moviegoing event, playing directly to easily startled teen girls who have nothing better to do with their Redbox money. There once was a time when trashy thrillers could be counted on to deliver trashy thrills. Now we have Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester. Blah. Krazybitch, PG-13-o-nized cinema deserves a more captivating representation than these two wet-lipped paper dolls.

A freshman at a California college, Sara (Minka Kelly, 31 years old) is ready for the real world after her stifling Iowan upbringing. Her dorm roommate is Rebecca (Leighton Meester, 25 years old), a gifted artist with a major overprotective streak, looking to bond with Sara in a big bad way. As the fashion design major becomes acclimated with the campus and its sisterhood cliques, Sara finds love with date rapist/frat hunk Stephen (Cam Gigandet, 29 years old), further disrupting Rebecca's dreams of intense bonding. As the months pass, Sara grows increasingly aware of her roomie's possessive behavior, which soon spills over to violence once Rebecca senses Sara is looking to move out.

Though the screenplay is credited to Sonny Mallhi (his first produced work), the premise of "The Roommate" has been rehashed time and again, most successfully in the 1992 chiller, "Single White Female." For this latest round of furious jealousy to cook properly, it needed a special sauce from the creative team, some sort of genre spice that could add needed flavor to pure repetition. Instead, "The Roommate" puts on a parade of vapid pretty people who I'm certain haven't even seen a thriller before, hired strictly for their looks, not for their dazzling sense of thespian authority. To make matters worse, directorial duties have been handed over to Danish filmmaker Christian E. Christiansen, who imagines himself some type of Hitchcock Jr., wasting much of the film on twisty camera moves and artistic transitions to keep the imbecilic material awake. I wish that time spent planning meaningless shots could've been used to hunt for actual actors.

Of course, I use the term "actors" lightly, as both Meester and Kelly are both cut from the same pouty, baby-voiced cloth. In fact, I'm willing to bet serious money they're the same person, as Christiansen does nothing to separate the performances. The leading ladies are atrocious, barely working up a sweat while burning through vaguely violent encounters or scenes of dorm room tension. They're Barbie dolls without much in the way of big screen training, spending much of the movie looking agitated instead of being agitated. Add in Gigandet and his flat personality and "The Roommate" poops out mere minutes after commencing. For added aggravation, there's also Billy Zane, portraying a lecherous fashion professor with a cooing realism that frankly left me quite uncomfortable.

Once Rebecca hits the warpath to protect her dorm buddy from the evils of pushy pals and manipulative boyfriends, "The Roommate" deflates further. Again, the film is PG-13, so little of the jealousy is explored to extraordinary ends. Instead, Rebecca tears a belly ring off a twerpy neighbor (a repellent Aly Michalka), masturbates while staring at a photo of Sara's dead pre-teen sister, and tosses a kitten into a running dryer (feline fanatics might want to skip this film). And when push comes to shove and this bipolar princess is finally ready to take a life, the murder is staged bloodlessly, with the victim making faces that could represent either the throes of death or the digestion of spicy chili. You pick. There's no mean streak to the film, just a very banal run of red-eyed stalker behavior, emerging from a Gimli-sized pop tart that, for some reason, no one is able to stop.



The anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1 aspect ratio) presentation has a good command of the film's color palette, with a welcome burst of reds and browns to help sell the collegiate atmosphere, while costumes remain bold. Skintones look natural, offering some perceptible difference between the women. Black levels are consistent, supporting visual information quite well during evening sequences, while dense hairstyles also show life.


The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix is pleasingly active for this type of motion picture, with the shrieking details of semi-horror successfully communicated with a dimensional effort, offering a clean blend of dialogue exchanges and ominous scoring cues. College party antics kick up the low-end, with some bass-heavy soundtrack cuts keeping a pulse, while atmospherics are carefully arranged, making for deep distant voices and campus activity. DVS and French tracks are also included.


English, English SDH, French, and Spanish tracks are included.


The feature-length audio commentary with director Christian E. Christiansen wins major points for its enthusiasm, with the Danish filmmaker happily introducing himself to American audiences, revealing his influences and intentions. Unfortunately, the party is disrupted when Christiansen attempts to chat up "Roommate" particulars, spending much of the track clearly hunting for screen details to discuss. Occasionally, the director hits some interesting points, especially when talking up dropped subplots (it seem the original cut made Rebecca a nut from the get-go) and L.A. locations. The rest leans dangerously on play-by-play habits. Christiansen seems very happy with the film, and his zeal is infectious, if not entirely understood.

"Deleted & Alternate Scenes" (6:15) offer nothing substantial to the movie, instead presenting little moments of characterization, an alternate title sequence (yay?), and a new beat of suspense. The director talks up all sorts of snipped moments in his commentary, but nothing significant has made it here.

A Theatrical Trailer has not been included.


An empty, lifeless, excruciatingly acted commercial for lip-gloss and fashion schools, "The Roommate" drags to a predictable showdown conclusion, pitting the actresses in a gun-swinging grunt-off that's just as dismally ineffective as the rest of the feature. Of course, a thunderously dramatic resolution isn't entirely expected, but it would've been nice to emerge from this film clinging to one genuine surprise. No luck. Instead, the picture is 90 minutes of two disturbingly interchangeable actresses and some kitten torture. Oof.

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