The Roommate is Single White Female for the CW set, but even more so, it’s a naked depiction of beauty as the key to attaining everything, and thus something to be coveted with murderous tenacity. No sooner has Sara (Minka Kelly) arrived at the University of Los Angeles than her fashion-model looks have reaped dividends at every turn: nabbing her a best friend in party girl Tracy (Aly Michalka), a suitor in frat boy/drummer Stephen (Cam Gigandet), and entrance into the clothing-design class of professor Roberts (a hammy, beret-wearing Billy Zane), as well as a trendy nightclub, which she can obviously go to despite being under 21 because, as Tracy matter-of-factly asserts, “We’re hot!”
If attractiveness is this vapid 90210 environment’s currency, it’s also what ostensibly gets Sara into stalker-esque trouble with new roomie Rebecca (Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester), who takes one look at fetching Sara and immediately decides that being her BFF is the only goal worth attaining. Making sure Sara doesn’t stray from her side, however, is a difficult task for Rebecca, who soon finds herself having to, among other things, rip belly rings off of naked women, blackmail professors with claims of attempted rape, and kill a cute kitty in a clothes dryer. Sara’s long-dead older sister provides Rebecca with a potential emotional void to fill, though Christian E. Christiansen’s thriller keeps psychological dynamics predictably superficial, so that Sara’s permissiveness of Rebecca’s increasingly bonkers behavior, and Rebecca’s self-mutilation-inspiring infatuation, prove byproducts less of deep-seated issues than, respectively, genial kindness and a refusal to take wacko pills.
Christiansen’s slick direction maintains the material’s obsession with surface loveliness, and faux-titillating lesbian overtones run rampant. Yet in terms of actual suspense, The Roommate telegraphs every dull twist and turn to the point that its harried set pieces feel like parodic recreations of clichéd genre scenarios, not to mention ones designed to afford Meester with as many opportunities as possible to stare at Kelly with bug-eyed lunacy. Ultimately, even her off-the-wall insanity is a letdown, courtesy in part of a PG-13 rating that—as with the aforementioned animal slaying and a late-act murder—neuters the extremeness of the film’s Girls Gone Cuckoo craziness.