Who wants to share a room with Leighton Meester?
In The Roommate, the young actress, best known for her portrayal of Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl, plays Rebecca, a college student and the realization of every freshman’s nightmare: the crazy roommate. But Rebecca is more than just a little crazy.
She seems normal enough at first, but slowly begins to reveal her true psychotic colors as she becomes more and more obsessed with her roommate, Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly).
The Roommate is an inferior take on the standard thriller aimed at teenagers and 20-somethings. The characters are generic, the plot is unimaginative, the close-ups are cheesy and distracting and there is, of course, the obligatory shower scene, a predictable hallmark of the genre.
The film doesn’t just fail on its own merits, however. Director Christian E. Christiansen unrepentantly steals characters and plot ideas from Barbet Scroeder’s 1992 college chiller Single White Female. In other words, The Roommate borrows from a better film and fails anyway.
The story centers around the protagonist Sara, the pretty, sacharinely sweet, naïve small-town girl who dreams of becoming a fashion designer. The rest of the characterization is just as tame and tedious.
Rebecca is predictable in her obsessive derangement. Sara’s boyfriend, Stephen (Cam Gigandet), is the friendly frat guy in a sub-par band. Sara’s friend Tracy (Alyson Michalka) is the out-of-control party girl. Last but not least, there’s the one semi-perverted professor on campus, portrayed by Billy Zane.
Sonny Mallhi’s dialogue is another uncreative component of the film. The majority of it is fruitless chatter that manages to move the plot along.
But from the dorm rooms to the classrooms and the frat house, the dialogue sounds more like how imagined college students would speak, as well as pretentiously hip college professors.
The one element the movie happens to develop successfully is Rebecca’s character. Unsurprisingly, she provides all of the tension and conflict in the film. The scenes that have nothing to do with her are mere padding.
Meester portrays the sociopath decently, at least proving that she can act outside the realm of Gossip Girl. Meester is convincing in illustrating Rebecca’s loneliness and psychotic tendencies, proving that Rebecca is truly a disturbed person, an obsessive, selfish teenager who has yet to mature.
Unfortunately, the scenes that suggest Rebecca to be a potentially dangerous stalker are rendered comedic because of how inconceivably creepy she suddenly becomes.
The film also seems to wash its hands of the entire conflict at the end, which might feel cheap to some. One would expect a twist surprise at the finish, but The Roommate isn’t prepared to offer much in the way of surprises.
There is nothing particularly memorable about Christiansen’s film, except that a lot of it was filmed on the USC campus. It’s hard to miss the numerous shots of McCarthy Quad and the Parkside Arts & Humanities building, but then, the inclusion of these locales will only be of brief interest for people familiar with USC.
Ultimately, The Roommate is little more than a lackluster thriller that fails to leave any lasting impression on audience members, which is what’s most frustrating about it. It certainly isn’t the worst film of its kind — James Foley’s near unbearable Fear comes to mind — but possessing one or two cringe-worthy moments is not enough to assuage the fact that it’s bad in a way that makes it completely forgettable.
The suspense doesn’t work, and the plot and dialogue are brainless. The film is a mediocre backup plan for a Friday night when there’s absolutely nothing better to do.