By Caryn James | James on Screens February 4, 2011 at 8:48AM
My Evil Twin did not write this review, although by the end it may seem that way. The Roommate, with Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly in a would-be Single White Female psycho-thriller, has many problems, but here is a big one: it is a terrible movie, yet it probably needs to make a ton at the box office just to earn back its budget for lip gloss.
Kelly plays Sara, a college freshman newly arrived in L.A. from Des Moines. Meester is her assigned roommate Rebecca, a California rich kid. Rebecca takes one glance at near-lookalike Sara and it’s obsession-at-first-sight. Why? Because that’s the way these movies go. We never get a better reason. (The same way we never know why 24-year-old Meester and 30-year-old Kelly need to play freshmen. That’s the way it is – for men and women – on Gossip Girl and Glee; actors playing high-school and college kids apparently require distance on the subject.)
There is not one surprise as Rebecca becomes crazily jealous of her instant best friend, and Sara seems not to notice how weird that is. Soon everyone around Sara is in danger, from an old hometown friend to her new boyfriend. I’d like to think the film is playing with cliches instead of whole-heartedly embracing them. There’s a shower scene in the dorm, when the lights go out and crazy-stalker-music kicks in: you have to assume the film is alluding to Psycho, right? But there’s no evidence of homage. The Roommate really does want to scare you. Yet there’s no cause to be afraid unless you’re the fluffy little kitten Sara brings in to share the room with -- uh-oh -- the roommate who will not share.
There is not a single camera angle or line of dialogue that will jolt you, not even the supposedly revealing line that Rebecca’s Mom (Frances Fisher) delivers to Sara when the girls visit over Thanksgiving: “She’s taking her medication?”
If this kind of thing is going to be played straight, the only possible way to pull it off is to have a stylish director. Single White Female had Barbet Schroeder. The Roommate has Danish director Christian E. Christiansen – not an auspicious start in American movies – who displays no imagination here.
The stars must have hoped for some director’s miracle, because otherwise they have real careers. Meester still has Gossip Girl, and she was fine in Country Strong. Kelly had Friday Night Lights and has just been cast in the TV remake of Charlie’s Angels. They don’t crack a smile as they pretend to take all this to heart. But you should feel free to laugh. Better still, skip it; or send your Evil Twin.