There is never an appropriate time or place to watch a bad movie. However, if there were ever a chance to give some slack to a wretched film, it would have been this weekend post blizzard. When I finally made it off my street, I had been cooped up in my house for four straight days, eager to get outside shrinking walls for a dose of any kind of entertainment. If anything were going to lesson the odds that The Roommate would stink it would be the opinion-skewing fact that I had sunk to the lowest depths of what is commonly known as "stir crazy."
Despite those advantages, The Roommate still stunk. No amount of desperation can fool the internal taste barometer that distinguishes "good" and "bad." For me to have enjoyed The Roommate on any level, I would have to have been locked up in solitary confinement for years. Another way The Roommate could be appreciated is if you've seen less than 10 movies in your entire life. I've seen nearly that many during the blur of snow-bound days so that didn't help it. No, The Roommate is just awful, regardless of whatever fragile mental state I was in while watching it.
Sara (Minka Kelly) is a bright-eyed, new student at the made-up University of Los Angeles and excited to meet her new roommate. The building resembles nothing from my college experience as the halls look like a swanky Euro-styled boutique hotel with a large dorm room full of grey and burnished steel selected straight from the latest CB2 catalog. A few hours after unpacking, Sara is drowning "punch" at a fraternity party and making eyes with a cute drummer. Then she stumbles back to the dorm and meets the roommate.
Of course to Sara, Rebecca (Leighton Meester) is a sweet, friendly person who would be a delight to share a dorm room. Rebecca likes to draw, is quiet, has a great wardrobe to borrow from and seems not all that uptight when her new best friend comes drunkenly into the room on their first night as roomies. Oh, yeah, there's just this little element about Rebecca that quickly comes out, to quote my dear departed grandpa Benton: she crazy!
After a day or two, Rebecca has gone full-on lunatic about everything connected to Sara. Rebecca doesn't like anything that gets in the way of sharing time together and begins to drive those people away with intense and scary stare downs or naked shower violence in a PG-13 level of intensity. Despite warning signals, odd behavior from friends and Rebecca's frightened family, Sara can't seem to figure out what the rest of us know in the first seconds of the movie or by taking a quick glance at the poster.
There's not a lot of intelligence, creativity or talent behind any of the people involved in The Roommate. Though technically not a remake, first-time screenwriter Sonny Mallhi (a producer of the 2006 disaster that was The Lake House) decided he would watch the film Single White Female a few dozen times and then craft a script centered around hot college students and the same story. The only way the producers of Single White Female probably aren't contacting lawyers for cinematic plagiarism is because Mallhi's film is as deplorable as the 1992 version.
The director of The Roommate is Christian E. Christianson, an annoyingly named guy from Denmark who could have actually watched Single White Female for inspiration in how to make an average movie. It seems he wasn't able to get a copy of that and instead watched the straight-to-video Single White Female 2: The Psycho by mistake. How else can you explain how someone can make a movie so plodding, so lacking energy, so manufactured and without suspense as in The Roommate unless all they've been exposed to is shoddy TV movies? In a film that was only 90 minutes (it felt three times longer than that) there isn't a single shred of tension.
The poor actors do not come off any better than Mallhi and Christianson. Kelly and Meester are trying to rise up from the realm of TV to film and based on what I saw in The Roommate, they should just stay where they are as the big screen isn't suited for them. While both are stunningly attractive, neither of them have the elusive and fickle quality known as "screen presence." At this point in their careers, they are indistinguishable from a myriad of other young actresses and are rather bland, despite their good looks. As performers, Kelly is the worst of the duo. A 30 year old old playing an 18 year old, she plasters a grin on her face in virtually every scene in the film; Meester does a little more as she grins or scowls, depending on whether or not she's in "crazy" mode.
While The Roommate isn't as much of a train-wreck as The Heart Specialist a couple of weeks ago, it is a woeful addition to the 2011 movie season. The New Year is supposed to fill us with promise and optimism as we start fresh on the calendar, but the movie studios bombard us with the worst films that money can muster. The Roommate is another example of the cruelty of a film company and not even the worst blizzard in my lifetime can drum up enough "cabin fever" for me to enjoy it.
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