Netflix review of The Roommate: A millennial Single White Female

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Published: Fri 17 Dec 2021, 4:09 AM

At times, you get tired of the rat race and the need to be on the ball. That’s when you begin to wonder what it’ll be like to watch a movie that belongs to a different era. Soon, I was beset by that need and started searching for something with a certain amount of vintage value. I chanced upon a movie called The Roommate, made in 2011 (when BlackBerry was still a rage), that has recently been inducted into the Netflix gamut. Now, 2011 is not vintage by a long shot, but two things struck me as I glanced through the teaser info.


Sushmita Bose

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One was The Roommate’s marked similarity with Barbet Schroeder’s 1992 Single White Female, starring Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh, where two women become flatmates in New York, and then the latter gets obsessed with the former and embarks on a rampage of mind games and murders. In The Roommate, two girls end up being roomies in college, and pretty much the same narrative devolves (in fact, I read somewhere that The Roommate was commissioned as a more millennial version of Single White Female).

Two, the movie promised to be a stalker film with elements that harked back to a simpler era. Remember the Bollywood superhit Darr from the early 1990s, where absolutely no explanation is trotted out as to why Shah Rukh Khan was going all mental with his obsession of “K-k-k-k-iran”?

Sara (Minka Kelly) and Rebecca (Leighton Meester) are roommates in a college in Los Angeles. While Sara is a small-town girl with big-city dreams, Rebecca is a posh Beverly Hills sort who appears to be drifting on autopilot. Rebecca immediately gets morbidly enamoured with Sara, and begins to stalk her, and hatching plans to get rid of those surrounding her who may (or may not, as it turns out) be coming in the way of her single-minded ‘pursuit’.

Like I mentioned earlier, there is absolutely no attempt to hair-split and read between the lines. So, there’s a certain deviant pleasure you feel because there are no deep dives into issues like schizophrenia and bipolarity — which are presented as means to the end instead of complex explorations. Let’s face it: this (2011) was the age predating streaming apps and the evolution of the noir genre in mainstream offerings, and, as a viewer, your only job — usually — was to get entertained while experiencing frissons of frights that don’t really make you think too hard. The acting is not bad, but the cast comes out much stronger in the looks department; the screenplay is kind of predictable; but you still enjoy the movie because it does its job by taking your mind off true crime.

There are jump scares and more traditional thriller ploys adopted: like bathroom lights getting turned off mysteriously when someone (a victim) is in the shower. There’s an interesting ‘borrowing’ of the Fatal Attraction impulse, the one concerning the bunny, but here the bunny is replaced by the kitten (this is not a spoiler because you know the moment the cat comes into the picture that something nasty will happen to it).

Another interesting nugget. This movie reunites two of the main characters from James Cameron’s Titanic (1997): Billy Zane, who played Rose’s fiancé, and Frances Fisher, who played Rose’s mother. Of course, here, they don’t even share screen space once... just saying.

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