out of Five
Running time: 91
Despite an enjoyably creepy central performance from Leighton Meester, this is ultimately a disappointing and not very scary Single White Female rip-off that's let down by a lazy script, a lacklustre leading performance from Minka Kelly and a frustrating tendency to cop out of the expected nasty moments.
What's it all about?
Directed by the brilliantly named Christian E. Christiansen, The Roommate stars Minka Kelly as Iowa fashion student Sara Matthews, who arrives in Los Angeles to enroll as a college freshman and quickly becomes friends with her assigned roommate Rebecca (Leighton Meester). However, when Sara starts hanging out with party girl Tracy Morgan (Alyson Michalka), Rebecca becomes increasingly resentful and schemes to keep Sara to herself.
This is essentially a throwback to the trashy fill-in-the-blank from HELL thrillers that were all the rage in the early 90s (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, The Temp, The Crush, et al). In particular, it's a blatant rip-off of 1992's Single White Female, right down to stealing its most famous scene, though it's unlikely to be remembered with the same fondness in 20 years' time.
Leighton Meester (aka Gossip Girl's Blair Waldorf) is easily the best thing in the film, delivering an enjoyably creepy performance that makes great use of her dead-eyed staring abilities; there's also a pleasingly sleazy cameo from Billy Zane (as Sara's fashion professor) and Cam Gigandet is good as Sara's drummer boyfriend Stephen . In addition, the expected catfight climax is nicely handled, though it doesn't quite compensate for the film's overall flaws.
The film's biggest problem is its derivative and depressingly lazy script – the dialogue is flat and often unintentionally laughable while the plot has a few effective moments but frustratingly cops out of all the expected shock scenes (e.g. Sara discovering what has happened Rebecca's previous victims). It also has a frankly distasteful attitude towards mental illness, in that Sara's first reaction when she discovers that Rebecca is off her meds is to move out rather than, say, to get her to take her pills.
On top of that, Minka Kelly delivers an extremely bland performance as Sara and the film doesn't make nearly enough of her striking resemblance to Meester, just as it similarly runs away from any suggestion of lesbianism on Sara's part. This is a shame, because Rebecca's seduction of Sara's lesbian friend (Danneel Ackles) is the only time the film has any edge to it.
The Roommate is by no means unwatchable but it's nowhere near as good (or as enjoyably bad) as it should have been.