Saturday, February 12, 2011

651 - The Roommate review

“Competently photographed.” My readers might recall that I used that phrase in my one-star review of “No Strings Attached,” in reference to the huge number of films whose only redeeming merit is that they’re filmed well enough. I can’t even be that generous with “The Roommate,” which in addition to being poorly written and acted, is lit like a truck stop men’s restroom.

“The Roommate” is a thriller made by the same people who once saw “Single White Female.” Its heroine is Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly), one of a group of college freshman in their late 20’s that populate this and most other university-set films. Talking about Los Angeles, she tells her friend “It isn’t safe here like in Des Moines,” which confirms for us that the writer has never been to certain parts of our state capital, or possibly the nicer parts of LA. Sara’s one of those movie characters unafflicted by a personality or quirks that could loan her dimensions. I think filmmakers aim for this so that the maximum number of women in the audience can transpose their own values onto the character. It works for “Twilight,” though that’s like Shakespeare compared to this.

The antagonist, other than the key grip, is Rebecca (Leighton Meester), Sara’s roommate at the dorms. We first suspect that Rebecca must be crazy after seeing the film’s ads, though we know for sure when she tortures Sarah’s BFF in the shower. You should see Rebecca at work, frightening the BFF with creepy mind games, disappearing from sight with Batman-esque speed. If she’s going to just torture the friend, why bother with the initial trickery? Just cause, I suppose. Rebecca also kills Sarah’s cat, though it’s not like she did something really unforgiveable, like kill a dog.

The downside of film criticism involves listening to the people who think criticism doesn’t matter and watching bad movies. This is the sort of movie so bad that it proves criticism does, in fact, matter, even as the film’s more putrid qualities almost seem to constitute a deliberate insult to those in the audience who fancy themselves the possessors of good taste. Scenes go nowhere, plot threads dangle untied, and that lighting, oh, that lighting, which probably won’t show up on the cinematographer’s resume any time soon. And what of the poor actors? People become actors for two reasons: to date attractive members of the opposite sex, and to perform in great art. I don’t personally know anyone on screen, but I’m guessing in their youth, when asked why they wanted to be thespians, movies like this had nothing to do with the answer.

You don’t need to have seen “Single White Female,” or perhaps any obsessive psycho pic to know that the last 20 minutes contain a murder, a hostage-taking, and a deux ex machina. In this case, the fate of the world hinges on a catfight over a pair of box cutters, which might be more violent than, say, the climax of “The Social Network” or “The King’s Speech,” but manages to be far less interesting. The most I can say about my experience was I that enjoyed the part where the college-age couple in front of me drank Four Loko and went to second base. At least someone in the theater had a good time.

0.5 out of 5


tony g said...

Wow, that comment about Des Moines does seem pretty out of place if you've actually been to Des Moines. To paraphrase an email I received from someone at Drake: Don't walk around alone near campus at night, you might get shot

James said...

Yeah, I laughed out loud when the line was uttered. It's sort of cute how people from the coasts are under the impression that a place like Iowa doesn't have any criminals in it except for meth cookers.