FEBRUARY 4, 2011
If not for a (thankfully offscreen) moment halfway through movie, I'd almost be tempted to recommend The Roommate as a "let's get drunk and watch this" type movie. It's pretty bad, but there are unintentionally hilarious moments sprinkled throughout, not to mention Cam Gigandet's award-worthy performance, which consists almost entirely of squinting and making a face that suggests he's never more than a second away from bursting out laughing. But there's one part that kills the fun, made worse by the fact that it turns out to be pretty much the only really evil thing that Leighton Meester does in the movie.
Granted the movie was PG-13, so it's not like I was expecting a bloodbath, but Prom Night and even When A Stranger Calls (both Screen Gems offerings, in fact) had a body count that would take at least one full hand. The Roommate, on the other hand, has TWO kills, and one is an adorable little kitten. Actually the kitten's the only confirmed kill - she stabs Minka Kelly's ex but it's entirely possible that he's just wounded, they cut away as soon as she penetrates. The rest of the would-be victims - Kelly's friend at school, her best friend from home, Gigandet as her boyfriend, Billy Zane's lecherous professor... they're all still standing at the film's end, many without even any injuries. But a little kitten gets it? Fuck you, movie. On that note, feel free to check out Scott Weinberg's thoughts on the matter - he rightfully points out that the MPAA should warn about such things, especially when they have random shit like "teens partying" in their warning language. What teens? Everyone in this movie is practically (in Kelly's case, IS) in their 30s. Kelly was playing a teacher herself 4 years ago in The Kingdom, for Christ's sake.
Anyway, that's not even the biggest problem with the movie. Low death count? Fine. As long as it's suspenseful/creepy, right? Well, it's not. Almost admirably, there are very few jump scares, but there's not much of ANYTHING in this movie. Scene after scene just ends with Meester staring at Kelly, or Kelly looking puzzled about something Meester just said or did. There's no real tension, and scenes/subplots come and go without any fanfare (Kelly never even finds out about the kitten). Even when Kelly meets Meester's parents and encounters a previous "obsession", nothing comes of it. Was this girl someone who she was close to before, or was she just obsessed from afar? Doesn't matter, I guess - the whole "subplot" was just something to kill time, not actually advance the plot or deepen Meester's character. Not to sound crass, but it's not even ever made clear if she has lesbian tendencies (the scene in the trailer with her sleeping in the same bed is not even in the film), thus we're never even sure what exactly she wants to accomplish.
The random "scare" scenes don't amount to a damn thing, either. At one point a gas station guy almost literally comes out of nowhere and begins hitting on her while she fills her tank. She sprays him with gasoline, takes out a lighter, and... he runs away. That's it. At one point she attacks Kelly's friend and rips her belly ring out, but does the girl do anything? Nope, she just moves into a different dorm and is never seen again. You'd think she'd tell the cops (at least the CAMPUS cops) that she was seriously injured by the girl living with her friend - it's not like Meester was blackmailing her or anything. Nearly every scene in the film could have been edited for time, as there's never any connective tissue or consequences to anything. It's also a bit sloppy; Meester dyes her hair dark brown at one point to fake the ex boyfriend, but two scenes later it's back to the dirty blond she sports throughout the film.
I was barely surprised to learn that the film was edited by the same guy responsible for Halloween 6, itself a movie that's just a bunch of random scenes with almost zero connection to one another. Ordinarily I'd suspect a hasty re-edit as the cause of this sort of thing, but apart from the bed shot, everything else in the trailer is in the film, which surprised me. However, this is the only writing credit for screenwriter Sonny Mallhi, and everything else is producing credits - not the best sign. You can almost hear the studio meeting: "Let's get two hot young starlets and do a college version of Single White Female!" "Great! I'll throw together a script this weekend." It's almost sort of impressive how you can see every plot point coming a mile away when the movie is so slapdash - perhaps they actually wrote the goddamn thing AROUND a trailer. "OK, we need a few scenes of them getting along, some minor creepy bits, and 2-3 stunts for the end of the trailer. Figure it out." And they steal more than the basic plot of SWF, by the way - nearly every single major event in the film was taken from that superior film. It's kind of funny, this is an "original" from Screen Gems but it feels more like a remake of an older film than their legit "remakes" of When A Stranger Calls and Prom Night did.
At least it LOOKS good. Kelly and Meester are both beautiful women and even when the latter goes into full-blown crazy mode, they always look wonderful. Since nothing happens in the movie, I'm not sure why they shot it scope (it's actually a detriment - constantly allowing us to see how ridiculously big their dorm room is), but it makes it look a little bigger than its 8 million dollar budget (per IMDb) would have you believe. I wish they could have shelled out a little more for the soundtrack though; the first 30 minutes or so feature wall to wall pop rock songs, but it's all bland and forgettable crap by bands I've never heard of (and keep in mind I LIKE "crappy" pop rock; a Lifehouse or Tonic tune would have increased the movie's value in my mind).
Most tellingly, even the teens in the (very sparse) audience were laughing at things that were supposed to be scary/disturbing, like when Meester beats the shit out of herself (another go nowhere subplot). You know you've truly failed when the 14 year old girls who are supposed to eat this shit up aren't even impressed. I think I counted one scream (at a jump scare the trailer gives away anyway), and a lot of "nooo" during the kitten scene, but otherwise, just the laughter. Laughing at the movie, or laughing at the 30 year old moron by himself watching The fucking Roommate on a Friday night, I'm not sure, but either way they sure as hell didn't seem to be into the movie. Smart kids!
What say you?