At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Roommate “2011”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Psychological Thriller/ Stars: Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, Danneel Harris, Matt Lanter, Nina Dobrev, Aly Michalka, Katerina Graham, Cherilyn Wilson, Billy Zane, Frances Fisher, Tomas Arana/ Runtime: 91 minutes

I feel it is safe to start this review off by saying that the film I am reviewing today seems like the kind of film that just rolled off a stylish assembly line somewhere in Hollywood. Indeed not only is every character good looking, but they have the latest fashions, and hairstyles to say nothing of the fact that their make-up is always on point. Heck even the background actors who are here just to fill in the space gaps look absolutely zero like your average college student. Indeed it really is the type of material that only Hollywood could conjure up, and really reminds me of that pointed observation from the film Last Action Hero that says that you know you are in the movies when everyone is perfect. However at the same time, it should also be pointed that every other ingredient in this film is also grade-A Hollywood as well. Indeed for as pretty as this film’s cast may be, the narrative they are working with is equally as reprehensible because for every action there is an equal or opposite reaction; a theory that is about the most intelligent thing you could ever imagine to tie to a film like this. It should also be noted that this is honestly is the kind of film that Hollywood makes where there is no other movies that could be released during a specific weekend. How it works usually goes something like this: a toilet paper script is usually found and hastily put together over a few hundred cocktails at a long lunch, a desperate for cash casting director picks both the “hot young names in Hollywood who will still make these films” as well as a veteran actor or 2 to strong arm ehh co-star and who are equally in need of a quick paycheck, and finally a helmer is chosen during the process of seeing who can drink their Bloody Mary the quickest. Yet even with this attractive cast, decent work from the movie’s helmer, and even a fair, but typical for the genre score it might make you think this is a competent film, but it is all horrifically negated due to a horrendous script and absolutely no emotions being emoted from anyone in either the cast or crew. Indeed this is not the worst movie I have ever seen, but this is one that, despite only running a few minutes shy of over an hour and a half, will literally feel like an absolute eternity to sit through just waiting for the movie to finally earn your ire just enough for you to eject it from the player and either bury it next to your copy of ET on the Atari or sell it for some unlucky person to buy and experience for themselves.

The plot is as follows: The Roommate tells the “riveting story” of a young woman by the name of Sara Matthews. When we meet our “delightfully perky and upbeat young heroine” we learn that she is a newly christened member of that league known as college kids who has just arrived at her new school and is quickly assigned to room 316 (they wanted to give her Room 237, but apparently it was either already taken or undergoing renovations after the last person who lived there try to axe some people to death). Within minutes, or so it seems, we see that Sara soon meets and befriends one of her neighbors, a spunky, party-loving girl by the name of Tracy who firmly invites Sara to join her to a frat party even though Sara was hoping to use that time to meet her new roommate. However it isn’t until a few drinks, a little bit tipsy, and with a potential boyfriend by the name of Stephen later that we see Sara return from the bash and walk into her room to find her new roommate there waiting for her; a young woman who seems friendly enough and who goes by the name of Rebecca. Quickly discovering that they have mutual interests, the two soon start to spend more time together and become quite close. However, given the kind of film this is, it sadly isn’t long thereafter for Rebecca to begin unnerving Sara’s other friends and soon even Sara herself begins to take notice of the fact that her roommate is not just “her friend”. Rather she is a clingy, vicious, needy, and quite possibly dangerous person who, if she is not around Sara virtually every waking moment, gets more and more angry and quite frightening. Suffice it to say then Sara has just walked into a nightmare that takes the form of a human being and which could quite possibly end in murder…..

Now as if it wasn’t already obvious, or least fairly easy to figure out, that this was the kind of film then even at its absolute best was destined to be the kind of movie that was meant to be forgettable then I feel that the PG-13 rating that the MPAA slapped it with should have been a dead giveaway. I say that because when was the last time there was, aside from perhaps Lights Out, a genuinely good PG-13 horror film? Actually I guess I should rephrase that a little because this film actually is more of a psychological thriller than any other genre. Yet this film seemed to really want to be a chiller, based on the marketing, and at least in one avenue it managed to succeed in that. I say that because man will this leave you should you watch it feeling chilled to the bone and not in a good way, but rather because theaters or running the AC in your house can get downright cold sometimes. Indeed this is a film that is never scary, and it never manages to get to a degree of either fear or suspense that is remotely worth mentioning. Yes, to be fair, this may not be a full-blooded horror film, but aren’t there supposed to be at least moments of genuine thills and/or suspense that do not include the moments that include jump scares from the shadows, musical cues, or the lights suddenly going off? Indeed this film may never have been destined to be a good film, but it still could have been at least halfway decent had it given more attention to the various machinations of both the narrative and the cast of characters instead of simply how they look and what styles they are wearing, a tad ironic seeing as fashion is a key part of the film away from the main narrative. Sadly however seeing how Hollywood is functioning these days, I am compelled to tell you that 98% of all “PG-13 beautiful yet moronic teens in danger” films are going to sink quicker than the Titanic if it had been captained by both Donald and Daffy Duck. This is not a stereotype movie goers, but a cold, hard, and quite tragic fact.

I guess if anything praise worthy can be said about this film it’s that not only is it decently put-together, but also none of the actors really manage to embarrass themselves too severely with their work in this. Yet even though it should be noted that all the cast seem to do in this is do what is expected, and honestly don’t ever seem scared or frightened, but when you have no framework to work from I can’t put that all on them by any stretch. This starts with Leighton Meester who is not bad as the titular psychopath, but is still left lacking because even though her pitch-black motives are gone into, you still are never left thinking that her character is ever going to be built up enough to a decent amount. Rather, the writer of the script just seems satisfied as slapping her with the label of “troubled” and then choosing to let that go where it may choose to want to go. We also get a decent enough turn here from Minka Kelly as the main heroine/ unfortunate victim, but as said before, there is really no depth or even desire to expand on this character rather than just what is on the script. Finally we also get decent work from Cam Gigandet as the typical boyfriend we’ve seen over 100 times in movies like this as well as from Billy Zane, yes the jerk from Titanic, who also manages to give the best performance in the movie in his smaller supporting role as a professor who we discover is into teaching for wayyy more than just monetary reasons. As for the crew behind the camera, we see that film helmer Christian E. Christiansen manages to do decent work on his first film and seems to have a fairly good level of know-how in making movies. Here’s hoping his next efforts were even a tad bit better than this.

All in all it is “sad” for me to have to say this, but The Roommate is no more and no less than the exact Miriam Oxford-Webster Dictionary definition for the idea in film known as “been there, done that.” I say that because although this film is somewhat palatable for audiences, 95% of it is still horrifically bland and all style, though not even much of that exists in this and absolutely zero amount of substance whatsoever. Indeed it would almost seem like film helmer Christian E. Christiansen’s film seemed destined to crash and explode into a horrific fireball long before it ever left the ground since he forgot rule number one of filmmaking. A rule that says something like this: A film will not amount to anything if the narrative behind it doesn’t have even a shred of intelligence, is constructed worse than something you can buy at IKEA, and is not possessing some degree or another of meaning. Indeed you cannot truly substitute the essentials for smooth work in terms of directing, and all the pretty girls and handsome guys in the world and hope for your movie to work based entirely on that. As such, The Roommate is able to work just barely on the level of brain-dead, and entirely lacking entertainment and should you go into the film with a pessimistic attitude and expect no more and no less than the worse then hey, it might even qualify as being enjoyable from a mindless perspective. The keyword there of course being MIGHT. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Roommate a solid 2 out of 5.