Most are familiar with the scene. It’s August, and the time has come to move out and head off to college, where an assigned roommate awaits. While this time is certainly anxiety-ridden, having an obsessive roommate seems an unlikely worry. Or does it?
Enter “The Roommate,” a recent release bringing all these pre-freshman year fears to life.
Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly, “Parenthood”) seems confident as she enters her first year at the University of California, Los Angeles. She’s personable, talented and single, despite the clingy ex-boyfriend. The only thing missing is her roommate, who she eventually meets after stumbling home drunk.
Instantly, something seems to be off with the roommate, Rebecca, played by Leighton Meester (“Gossip Girl”). She harbors an artistic obsession, takes to sitting alone in the dark and stalks her roommate. This instant creepiness soon escalates as Rebecca not only threatens others in an effort to protect Sara but tries to become Sara’s deceased sister. Full of actions that keep the audience wondering, “The Roommate” successfully causes one to be grateful for their freshman year experience.
For what it is, “The Roommate” is a decent film. While nothing is particularly noteworthy about the movie, it still manages to keep audiences entertained as they feel compelled to stare at the screen – even if it is just to find out what Rebecca does next. A lot of these actions are mediocre as well, such as the warranted obsessive stalking, but some have the power to stick in the back of the mind. Mixing the level of insanity helps give the film a touch of realism, making the fetched plot plausible.
While the action may seem plausible, the acting does not. Meester flounders as Rebecca. Her acting consists of a blank stare followed by sporadic outbursts that do not seem particularly realistic for the character. Even in moments of crisis, when the emotion, psychotic or not, should be there – all the audience is given is a face to look at.
That isn’t to say that Kelly does a better job as Sara. Even the beginning stages of Sara and Rebecca’s friendship seem forced, as there is no warmth in their voices nor expressions. The two seem to just go through the actions. While Sara’s character is frustrating in itself (who wouldn’t realize there was something wrong with their roommate at this point?), Kelly fails to make viewers care.
Perhaps this absent sympathy is not the actors’ fault as not only does the plot give no room for characterization, but the actors were cast regardless of their lack of chemistry with one another. This lack of chemistry unfortunately permeates the film, especially with the main couple, Sara and her frat boy boyfriend, Stephen. Stephen, played by Cam Gigandet (“Burlesque”) is not winning over any hearts. Despite being an attractive male, his character never has anything worthwhile to say.
This relationship seems even more contrived than the spawning friendship, which is epitomized in one of the least hot sex scenes ever to be seen in a PG-13 film. For a film boasting two sex scenes and a lesbian kiss, one would think the onscreen chemistry is rampant. Unfortunately, this is not the case in “The Roommate.”
This is not to say that there were not some positives to the film. “The Roommate” was beautifully shot, giving the entire piece an urban feel. When combined with a soundtrack that seemed to fit the ongoing actions, the viewer was transported out of their seat and into the feel of Los Angeles.
The smaller characters’ acting was also on point. Alyson Michalka of Aly & AJ fame (“Easy A”), for instance, as Tracy, gave a fitting portrayal of the college party girl. She brought a certain kind of life to the few moments she was on screen, even if those few moments were mostly spent acting intoxicated. The film would have definitely benefited from her character appearing more often.
For a thriller, “The Roommate” is never particularly thrilling, nor terrifying. As a college film, it sticks too close to stereotypes. But as a movie meant to entertain, it succeeds. More important than this achievement, however, is that “The Roommate” gives 93 minutes of cinema to frighten incoming freshmen.
2 out of 5 stars