The Roommate ✮1/2
by Glenn Lovell
All involved give it the old college try, but “The Roommate” never makes it beyond a dormitory retread of “Single White Female” and “Swimfan.”
Which is not to say Danish director Christian E. Christiansen hasn’t studied his Hitchcock. It’s just that what’s on display suggests he never advanced beyond an intro course, the one that highlighted “Psycho” and possibly Italy’s answer to Hitch, Dario Argento.
The Bates Motel shower sequence? Check. Stalker’s eye-view shots? Check. Tinkling, atonal music a la Argento’s “Suspiria”? Uh-huh. All accounted for.
TV hotties Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester co-star in this slick but tepid workout, which somehow avoided a cable premiere.
Kelly plays Sara, new on campus from Des Moines but very much the glam queen. Her hands-on design prof (Billy Zane) sees potential. So does the sulky Rebecca (Meester), Sara’s new roomie and another self-confessed “clothes hog.” Sara becomes progressively more cloying and, before you can say “The devil wears Prada!,” has cast herself as Sara’s surrogate sister.
Since this is a Miss Teen “Fatal Attraction” ‒ with baked kitten replacing rabbit stew on the menu ‒ everyone in Sara’s circle of friends is in jeopardy, including party animal Tracy (Alyson Michalka) and new boyfriend Stephen (Cam Gigandet). Tracy gets the shower treatment, which this time includes a game of musical stalls and painful navel-ring pull.
When Rebecca isn’t beating up others, she’s beating up herself for a show of attention. Curiously, director Christiansen is more into capturing these moments of self-mutilation.
Of course, for this sort of exercise to work, our heroine has to be very gullible. Sara doesn’t disappoint. She’s the kind of girl who sloshes back “punch” at a frat party and, ignoring all warnings, travels home with her psycho roomie over Thanksgiving break. It’s here that we start to sympathize with Rebecca. Compared to her waxworks parents (Frances Fisher and Tomas Arana), she seems almost sane.
Zane as the perv design professor quotes Yves St. Laurent and tells Sara, “I love the danger in your work ‒ it’s kinky, edgy.” He deserves whatever he gets. Matt Lanter (“Vampires Suck”) appears briefly as Sara’s ex-boyfriend. He flies in just in time for a surprise snuggle.
THE ROOMMATE ✮1/2 With Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, Cam Gigandet, Billy Zane. Directed by Christian E. Christiansen; scripted by Sonny Mallhi. 91 min. PG-13 (for profanity, violence)