It’s surprising that The Roommate wasn’t entitled Single White Female: The College Years, since this flick is pretty much just a Single White Female redux for which the filmmakers trimmed a few years off the cast and, just to be safe, also trimmed down characterizations, logic, etc. Simply put, The Roommate is unbearable and uncreative, and it was merely designed to appeal to unstable teen girls unable to think of anything better to spend their pocket money on. Considering how utterly generic this piece of shit is, the movie must have been green-lit by a studio with literally nothing else to make. The treatment was probably stitched together during a lunch meeting, the casting directors most likely just chose a few random hot names out of a hat, and in all likelihood the director was chosen by a process of drawing straws. The Roommate is a thriller that’s all about the superficial — the people are attractive, the film is glossy and the score is generic, all of which give the picture the appearance of competency . . . but it is all rendered naught thanks to a lousy script and absolutely no feeling or passion.
A freshman at the University of Los Angeles, Sara (Kelly) has no sooner moved into her dorm and attended her first frat party when she meets her roommate: Gifted artist Rebecca (Meester). The two girls initially hit it off fairly well, bonding over their adoration for art and coffee shops, until it becomes clear that Rebecca has a major overprotective streak and a dangerous obsession with Sara. Undeterred, Sara finds love with frat hunk and drummer Stephen (Gigandet), though the time they spend together further disrupts Rebecca’s dream of a close bond with Sara. Pretty soon, Rebecca’s possessive behavior spills over into violence, and no-one is safe if they attempt to get close to Sara . . .
It should not come as a shock to learn that The Roommate is totally and utterly formulaic; stealing elements from a lot of past movies. Traces of 1987’s Fatal Attraction, the aforementioned Single White Female, 1993’s The Crush and 2002’s Swimfan can be detected as the film goes through the generic motions with all the enthusiasm of a fat guy eating a salad. Frankly, The Roommate feels like a science fiction film written by alien life-forms; an utterly peculiar, half-cocked guesswork of what life is like at an American college, permeated with dismal dialogue and a story executed in a moronic fashion. Instead of something approaching a semblance of reality, it is a film set in a surreal, absurdist alternative universe where everyone is stunningly beautiful, teenagers look closer to the age of 30 than 18, and sleazy professors are a dime a dozen.
The Roommate was marketed as a thriller, but it is not even remotely scary. Sure, it was intended to be more of a psychological thriller than an outright horror movie, but aren’t there still supposed to be scares or moments of nail-biting intensity? And no, those generic “sharp musical cues” or “jump out of the shadows” moments do not count, because even those are hopelessly ineffective here. The Roommate was never going to be a good movie in a traditional sense, but it could have been decent or watchable if more attention was paid to suspense or the dynamics of the plot. Instead, it for the most part plays out like a boring, middle-of-the-road teen television show like One Tree Hill or 90210 while a generic-looking chick wanders around giving a generic glare that’s more funny than menacing. And it takes itself far too seriously. Heck, if the film merely included sleazy elements like violence or hardcore nudity and sex, I’d have at least enjoyed it and could’ve gotten drunk watching it. But alas, it sits in the strange, indeterminate hinterland between straight-faced horror and enjoyable thriller. It’s all just really flat and tedious on top of being incredibly, agonizingly boring.
And did I mention the rampant stupidity? Not even half an hour into the film, Rebecca terrorizes and assaults a girl in a darkened bathroom. The victim’s response is not to warn anyone or go to the police, but to move out of the dorm without a single word spoken to anyone. Rebecca threatens to kill her if she reports the attack, but come on; this girl wouldn’t even be threatening to a fucking garden gnome, let alone the police if the attack was reported. And it takes far too long for the characters to notice the warning signs suggesting something is not quite right with Rebecca. Sure, Alfred Hitchcock told us that suspense is when the audience knows there’s a bomb under the table and the characters do not, but if the bomb is incredibly fucking obvious and ticks louder than Big Ben, then that is not suspense — it just means we’re dealing with a bunch of nitwits.
For the most part, the actors are awful too. Each character is physically fit with perfect make-up, and their clothes are straight off of Rodeo Drive, meaning the casting directors just focused on looks and bankability rather than, you know, acting talent. Leighton Meester is in no way intimidating as Rebecca — she just glares at people. If a girl ever glared at me like that, I’d just flip the bitch off. Problem solved. As Sara, Minka Kelly appears to at least be trying, but she’s limited by the material. The only cast member I actually liked was Cam Gigandet, because it seems as if he was mugging the camera with intentionally awful acting for the lulz. Brilliant.
At this point in time, it has become a bona fide fact that any PG-13 rated “handsome teenagers in danger” movies will suck. It’s not a stereotype or a shallow observation based on a want for boobs or mindless violence . . . it’s a sad fact. The Roommate is irreparably crippled by its fucking obvious PG-13 rating and the lack of realization that the further you go, the closer you get to a black comedy. Heck, with the right people behind it, this could have been a gripping, twisted, hilarious horror classic. What a shame it isn’t.