Sometimes when a movie you saw once at the time and then forgot about comes on the television (or in this case, you're given it to write about), and you check it out, wondering what the film was like when you're older and if you've picked up on some subtlety you missed when it came out (squints) 26 years old? Jesus goddamn, Single White Female is a quarter century old? What the hell am I doing with my life?
Anyway, Don Roos (Marley & Me) adapted the John Lutz novel into a screenplay that Barbet Schroeder (Reversal of Fortune) directed. Allie (Bridget Fonda, Point of No Return) is a successful professional living in New York. She has a boyfriend in Sam (Steven Weber, Wings), but it's not that serious yet, and rent in the city is expensive. So she puts out an ad for a roommate, which is when Hedra (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight) enters the picture. She and Allie hit it off but Allie still feels a tiny bit of suspicion, though not enough to reject her. Bad move Allie, bad move indeed!
So underneath fairly obvious camp that comes with Single White Female, there are some forays into psychology that make it interesting. Hedra's backstory is kind of laid out in the opening scenes when she's a kid and hanging around her twin sister, and as she and Allie spend time together, it's clear that she wants to be Allie, wearing clothes, makeup, changing hairstyles, and that's before it gets freaky. But the explorations of some of the interactions between the two are kind of interesting. Allie tries on some earrings without asking, she tends to eavesdrop a little bit, enough to be noticeable, but not stalking. Hedra and Sam tend to flirt a little bit as she becomes more comfortable around him (and them) the longer she's in the apartment. It's clear that she's at the very least a little bit off, but not so much that she's blatantly crazy, and Leigh's balance of it is to her talent.
The film isn't without SOME moments of implausibility, most of them occurring late into the second act and most of the third as Hedra's character slowly and inevitably spins out of control, and the battling back and forth between the two characters gets a little needlessly sapphic, as you do I suppose when one character is infatuated with the other. Also, Stephen Tobolowsky plays a halfhearted out clause in Allie's boss that made me scratch my head now after chuffing it off when I first saw it back in the day. This is a guy that could almost save the day? Come on.
Through it all though, given what we know about Hollywood's desire to take multiple bites out of the same conceptual apple, I'm slightly amazed that Single White Female hasn't been remade or at the least modernized for audiences. You could easily get two familiar faces in these roles, let them chew the scenery and the result would be something you could get another film or two out of. Heck, this film had a sequel with two different actresses for goodness' sake! But the fact that there are a couple of different interesting and challenging things in this story make it something that can be explored. While I didn't pick this up at the time, it sure stands out now.The Blu-ray:
Scream's 1.85:1 widescreen presentation of Single White Female uses the AVC codec and looks spiffy as far as I could tell (I recently went through an equipment upgrade to 4K and all the onboard and upscaling goodies therein). By and large the transfer looks nice, with image detail in the hair and clothing being a little more evident than expected. Film grain is present and consistent through the film and black levels are as consistent as could be expected, though the contrast tends to waver a little in the nighttime bedroom sequences. Nevertheless, the disc looks better than perhaps folks had any expectations of.The Sound:
A two-channel DTS-HD Master Audio track rules the day here, given the nature of the action it's not a huge surprise. Dialogue is consistent throughout, the film doesn't get a subwoofer workout so that, along with directional effects are at a minimum. Channel panning is brief during daytime walks on the street through hardly mind-blowing. It's fine, don't expect much out of it is all.The Extras:
Many moons ago the film was given a barebones standard definition release and not only is it on Blu-ray, but there is some retrospective supplementing going on to boot. Schroeder, editor Lee Percy and producer Susan Hoffman team up to talk about the film and have a good amount of production recall on it; Schroeder recalls arguments with the studio on various issues, and at one point Whoopi Goldberg did a protest audition of some sort, because the title of the film was a trigger I guess. Getting into shot breakdowns and challenges in the story is also hit on, but as the film goes on the commentary does get to tail off with prolonged bouts of watching. It is a surprise to listen to and fans of the film will enjoy it. They will also enjoy interviews with Schroeder (27:20), Roos (25:41), Weber (19:41) and Peter Friedman (7:17), who played Fonda's neighbor. They talk about their time shooting the film or putting the story together, any relevant legacy takes and their thoughts on it now. A trailer (2:04) completes things.Final Thoughts:
Single White Female isn't going to go down in the lore of many movie fans, and by no means is it an underrated cinematic gem; there are some nuances in it that are worth the exploration by talented actresses such as Fonda and Leigh, and while the story does whatever it can to thwart it, they are dramatic hail marys that are worth checking out for those who casually knows anything about the film or actresses. And as it turns out, it's given some attention by the cast and crew lo these many years after its theatrical and DVD release, so kudos to Scream for the effort.