08 May 2012


Twelve Things about The Roommate

12. Rebecca: "I always wanted a sister." I'm sure that's true. It was the mainstream acceptance of birth control and shrinking family sizes which gave birth to modern "Roommate Gothic".

Did you see what I did there?

11. Sarah: "You're the first roommate I've had since [my sister] died." Even a Grade-B Thriller pig can find an acorn. If only on a subconscious level, the writers would have understood that "Roommate Gothic" is driven by the loneliness that comes from the loss of siblings. But I don't know whether they also consciously realised that siblings who are lost before they can even be born can be just as haunting.

Yes, I'm totally making that connection. Shrinking family sizes (whatever the direct cause) also led to the rise of the BFFs.

10. Oh, speaking of sisters, Leighton Meester (who plays Rebecca) and Minka Kelly (who plays Sarah) would be believable as siblings . . .

. . . although if I had run into them in real life, I would have guessed they were cousins.
Cousins without sisters who are also BFFs.

9. Their characters are also very Good Twin/Bad Twin. Rebecca doesn't seem to have any redeeming qualities at all, while Sarah doesn't seem to have any damning qualities at all. They could have totally turned out to be the same person with alternate personality disorder!!! =P

This simplistic splitting of good and evil reminds me of a recent conversation I had with a friend about faerie tale characters. He said it seemed unfair to him that the males in faerie tales have both a princely side and a beastly side, while the females tend to be princesses from start to finish. I suggested that the stepmother in Snow White, the stepsisters in Cinderella, and the sisters in Beauty and the Beast were the "beastly"--or rather, ugly--sides of the princesses. That is, they're not just foils; they're also flipsides.

And that's why I can't stop thinking that Rebecca was just Sarah's bad side. Which is how two-dimensional they are as characters.

8. Then there's Tracy, the first friend Sarah makes when she moves in, who turns out to be a flaky party girl. Tracy uses her youth and good looks to get into clubs for free and to get men to buy her drinks--and she "dumps" a friend during their Girls' Night Out without so much as a text after she meets a stranger with a Porsche and a hot tub.

I bring her up because it if Rebecca weren't psychotic, she'd just be another Tracy. Both of them know that if you have beauty, youth and some wealth, you can be as bad as you like and still look pretty good. Unless you're also crazy. And apparently, that's our moral standard now. =/

7. And now for the inevitable comparison to 90s Thriller Single White Female.

Both movies are about what happens when a normal woman (or college girl) finds herself living with a psychotic woman (or college girl) who wants to be absolutely everything to her. Intriguingly enough, both also have characters who are "haunted" by the memory of dead siblings. But while the loss of a twin is a unique misfortune in Single White Female (heck, it's a twin), the death of an older sister is somehow more generic in The Roommate.

There's a subliminal message that if you can relate to going to college, breaking up with your high school sweetheart, making new friends, finding a new love, and having to share a room with a stranger--all common experiences among your generation--then you can also relate to missing an older sibling, which, for the reasons stated above, is more common than you may think.

I have no Twelve Things post for Single White Female
. . . but it made my Top 5 "Girlfight" Movies list. =)

6. There are also minor elements in The Roommate which we could consider homages to the older movie. Single White Female had a puppy, for example; and this one has a kitten. Both have "sexy" hotel room scenes that end in misfortune. But I don't know if I was able to predict so much of what was going to happen because I had seen the older movie or because this one lacks as much essential creativity as all these homages suggest.

5. To get technical now, a real problem with this movie is all the quasi-atmospheric pseudo-scares that go nowhere. For instance, Rebecca's stalking of Sarah's new boyfriend in the library gives us the following Sadako-esque image . . .

. . . which ultimately amounts to nothing because she never actually tries to take him out.

I don't even feel bad for "spoiling" this.
It's the most minor example.

4. There's a lot of modern art in this movie, from stuff actually hanging in galleries to fancy graffiti. It makes some sense because Sarah and Rebecca both love to draw. Sarah is an aspiring fashion designer, and Rebecca is all about obsessive sketches. I would have liked the art to have served more of a purpose in the movie, but it's mostly wallpaper--and in the case of the original sketches the two roommates put up in their room, literally so!

This is why it would have been nice for the tattoo to have been something artsy instead of just text.

3. I didn't get Rebecca's parents. They obviously care about her very much--even if they also fear her--and their decisions don't seem plausible to me.

They're in the movie because Sarah has to meet a girl from Rebecca's past in order to get some real foreshadowing going, and the easiest way for the filmmakers to arrange this is for Rebecca to invite Sarah over for the weekend. But that's it. (How lazy.)

2. I do get Sarah's boyfriend. It would have been too weird for her not to have a romantic interest. He's as two-dimensional as the lead girls are, but that's to be expected.

1. My final word? As a movie, The Roommate kind of sucks. As a barometer of contemporary mores, it is great to pick apart.

Image Sources: a) The Roommate poster, b) Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly, c) Single White Female poster, d) The Roommate screencap


Kate@Midnight Book Girl said...

I wanted to like this movie, as I liked the actors that were in it, but I'd have been better off re-watching Single White Female...

Belfry Bat said...

Why, yes, I do see what you did, there. (I did keep reading after that, too...)

Enbrethiliel said...


Kate -- I know what you mean. I kind of like Leighton Meester (because of the bits I've seen from Gossip Girl) and I really wanted to love Minka Kelly . . . but this movie totally fell flat. =(

Belfry Bat -- Yay! =D