Christian E. Christiansen’s The Roommate doesn’t lose points for ineptitude, but rather for sheer superfluousness. Do we really need a variant on Single White Female (1992) set in a college dorm?
That’s rhetorical, or course, because we’re still saddled with this lousy excuse for a thriller, one that’s not even kind enough to go the full-on R-rated route. What’s the point in a trashy tale of a murderous undergrad when you can’t even bother to actually be sleazy? At the very least give us some entertainment. What we get instead is a film short on titillation but steeped in monotony, like a bachelor party at a bingo hall.
Danish director Christiansen handles everything with a slick touch, which might be the film’s biggest problem. It’s too slick, as Christiansen is neither awash in personal style nor totally inept, leaving us a movie devoid of any personality, with the pay-off being a picture that’s technically perfectly fine, but smacks of glossy TV show. He’s not given much to work with however, as the film is pretty devoid of anything like originality or wit or cleverness or taste.
The film follows Sara (Minka Kelly, (500) Days of Summer), a college freshman who moves into her dorm and soon finds out that the seemingly nice Rebecca (Leighton Meester, Country Strong) is her roommate. That’s where we start off, only to find out that Rebecca’s actually more than a bit unhinged, needy, clingy and obsessive, and soon decides that she and Sara are best friends. Being best friends, it seems, includes Rebecca’s constant need to defend Sara from bad influences, an attitude that soon spirals into violent outbursts that run from ripping out navel rings to full-on murder.
The problem is, why care? As cinema it’s drab, as entertainment it flounders. Even our bubble-headed co-eds are drained of personality to the point they’re nondescript (something that’s a bit disappointing, as Leighton Meester was one of the few appealing things in Country Strong). The Roommate doesn’t even have the common decency to be unintentionally funny. The closest we get is Cam Gigandet pretending to play the drums (artfully posed so there’s always someone in front of him so you’re never really able to see what he’s hitting) and pretending to read a book. I’m still struggling to figure out which is more absurd, but it does raise the question: Now that James Franco has legitimized himself, does Gigandet step into his role as America’s new squinty-eyed, boorish hunk? If that’s the most pressing question a movie inspires, you know you’re in trouble. Rated PG-13 for violence and menace, sexual content, some language and teen partying.