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Movie Review: The Roommate (PG-13)

MV5BMjIwMzQwMzMwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjE5MTUxNA._V1._SY317_By Roxana Hadadi

For an industry that makes countless millions of dollars a year, why can’t Hollywood get some new ideas? And, more sadly, why did they have to remake “Single White Female” in such a pitifully bad way?

Yup, “The Roommate” is not good. Starring lots of beautiful people, like Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, Danneel Harris and Alyson Michalka, all veterans of other teen-centric films like the “Twilight” series and TV shows like “Gossip Girl” and “One Tree Hill,” the actors are all wasted in the film’s amazingly bad script, character development and horror sequences. “The Roommate” somehow manages to offend everyone, from animal lovers to members of the LGBT community to people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to frat boys, in its quest to be one of this year’s most forgetful films.

OK, perhaps the last member of that list doesn’t necessarily need this movie critic’s concerned protection. Frat boys probably deserve most of the criticism they’re given. But it’s amazing that “The Roommate” manages to pack so many eye-roll-worthy stereotypes into one egregiously bad, but thankfully brief, 93 minutes.

Because it’s short, though, that means the film moves fast, rapidly showing us how mean girls can really get. Things start off with Sarah (Kelly), a chic and stylish freshman beginning her first semester at the University of Los Angeles as a fashion design student. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, Sarah is somewhat hesitant to make friends, but attends a frat party with hallmate Tracy (Michalka), where she meets the cute Stephen (Gigandet). Returning drunk to her dorm room that night, Sarah meets her roommate, Rebecca (Meester), a sullen girl who frowns at Sarah’s intoxication and whose crazy begins to show early.

In some ways, it’s unintentionally hilarious. Rebecca mopes a lot and stares angrily at Sarah whenever she hangs out with other people, like Stephen or Tracy. She uniformly rejects Tracy’s attempt to give her a nickname. She dislikes nightclubs. Take every stereotype of a freshman girl at college – flighty, giggly, uninhibited – and Rebecca is the opposite, more content to burrow into her bedsheets and wait for Sarah to come home than do anything fun herself.

But Rebecca isn’t just a Debbie Downer: her weirdness and social awkwardness escalate quickly, without abandon and seemingly lacking any end in sight. She says seemingly innocent things to Sarah that are secretly laden with creepy meaning – “I promise I won’t abandon you,” “It’ll be our secret” – and will do anything to fit in with her roommate, including piercing her ears for the first time with borrowed earrings and showing her creepy artwork. What’s the reason behind her misbalanced personality and obvious psychosis? She sometimes mentions yearning for a sister, but as she veers between wanting to keep Sarah for herself and taking over Sarah’s life, Rebecca’s motivations aren’t clear.

Nearly everything bad about the film is obviously crystal, though. From its predictable horror movie clichés – shrieking synths, naked girls being punished for their wrongdoing, dark hallways and rooms – to bad character development, in which we’re given no reason for why Rebecca is so unhinged or why she becomes so attached to Sarah, the film doesn’t deliver any surprises. And especially if you’ve seen “Single White Female,” the 1992 film with Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh that “The Roommate” swipes its plot from, you’re only going to be further disappointed – whereas that film had solid reasons for Rebecca’s weirdness, this one just

explains her psychosis as a result of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Linking violence and mania to those two diseases without any further background is irresponsible enough, but then portraying that character as sexually manipulative as a result is pretty bad, too.

But the film never truly becomes scary, meaning that most of its supposed-to-be thrilling scenes actually end up delivering an exasperated chuckle – and much of the violence is implied instead of shown, keeping the film in the PG-13 realm. It’s suggested that a girl’s bellybutton ring is ripped out and a guy stabbed to death, but you don’t see any blood; there are also scenes of self-harm, and the murder of a person’s pet. The last showdown is bloody and involves a gun and a utility knife, but it’s all screams and flailing hair, no real gore. In terms of sexual content, there’s an implied sex scene and an implied female masturbation scene, as well as some girl-on-girl kissing. For younger teens who watch Meester play Blair Waldorf on the TV show “Gossip Girl,” this is too inappropriate, but older teens should be able to laugh off all this outlandishness if they’re comfortable with the level of sexual content and violence.

“The Roommate” is just another example of how Hollywood needs to stop ruining its own old ideas. Think of something fresh, you know? That’d be great.

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