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It's a new school year at the (fictitious) University of Los Angeles. Pretty, capable and obliging Sara is a freshman. As a Des Moines native, L.A. can be a bit overwhelming, but she's got big hopes. She hopes to become a major fashion designer one day. She hopes to make friends on campus. She also hopes to get a roommate who's not one knife wound shy of a psychopath.
Alas. That third wish doesn't come true.
It starts out well enough. Sara's fairly normal looking, fun-if-a-tad-intense new roommate, Rebecca, seems to be a good friend. She hangs out with her. She shows her the sights. She picks her up when her ride abandons her at a club. She rescues her from a lecherous teacher. But Rebecca's hasty devotion to Sara soon gets creepy. And then Sara's friends start getting hurt.
Once Sara catches on that Rebecca might be a bit jealously possessive and … smothering, it's too late. Sara's cat's in the clothes dryer, her ex-boyfriend is dead, her current one's unconscious and her best friend's tied to a bed. Oh, and Rebecca's got a gun.
Has Sara somehow married a single white ax murderer by mistake? Or does everybody in L.A. act like this now?
From Sara's perspective at least, her friendship with Rebecca starts out honest, well-intentioned and wholesome. She cares about her roomie and even wants to help her when she discovers that Rebecca's psychological state is a bit off. Rebecca's parents are also concerned about their daughter's wellbeing. Stephen (Sara's new college beau) doesn't take advantage of her when she's drunk. Later he risks his own safety to try to save her life.
When a professor is busted for bribing a student for sex, one of the girls calls it "instant karma." Stephen makes a casual reference to God holding him up while he's holding up Tracy (a friend of Sara's). Both are drunk at the time.
Stephen and Sara make out passionately and take off each other's shirts before he lies on top of her and they continue to kiss. Determined to sideline (or kill) Sara's friends, Rebecca kisses Irene—who's known to be a lesbian—and the two plan for a sexual romp that ends in Irene's kidnapping.
Posing as Sara, Rebecca has phone sex with Sara's ex-boyfriend. Their conversation is muted as we watch her sexual movements and facial responses. The scene is interwoven with Stephen and Sara's first sexual encounter. A (married) professor impulsively kisses Sara, who is shocked and disgusted. To "avenge" her roommate, Rebecca offers to have sex with the man in return for entrance to his class—then feigns rape as she secretly tapes their encounter.
Rebecca says she looks better out of clothes than in them. Stephen and Sara talk about her doing a striptease for him. Women are shown in their bras and panties. Rebecca and Tracy are both shown showering. In Tracy's case, the camera zooms in for extreme close-ups of her abdomen, lower back and shoulders. While drunk she pulls her shirt up for a group of frat boys. (The camera stays behind her.)
"Awkward homoerotic" humor at frat parties is mentioned. Stephen speculates that Rebecca might have a gay crush on Sara.
The violence is usually bloodless. But some of the sequences are pretty intense. Tracy's shower culminates with Rebecca attacking her, hitting her and ripping a ring from her pierced belly button. Rebecca threatens to kill her.
Rebecca stabs Sara's ex to death with a large knife after she seduces him by crawling into bed with him and caressing him. A woman is also killed with a knife, jammed into her back. Rebecca sprays gasoline on a station attendant who comes on to her—then threatens him with a lighter. Stephen's knocked unconscious with a mallet. Irene is seen gagged and bound to a bed. Trying to escape, Sara dangles out of a high window, hanging from a curtain.
To trick Sara into thinking she's been raped and brutalized, Rebecca repeatedly punches herself in the face and uses a box cutter to slice her abdomen. As she screams, the camera jerks away just before the incision, but we see the bloody result.
Women punch and wrestle, fighting to gain control of a gun and a blade. Rebecca chokes Sara and points the gun at her. When Sara secures the weapon and points it back at Rebecca, she pulls the trigger three times. The chambers are empty.
Rebecca pierces her own ears with earrings Sara gives her to wear. It's implied that she kills a kitten by putting it in a dryer.
Crude or Profane Language
Ten s-words. God's name is misused about that many times, too. There are several uses each of "a‑‑hole," "h‑‑‑" and "b‑‑ch."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Many of the college girls clearly equate higher education with drinking and partying. In fact, Rebecca's refusal to go clubbing with the rest of the teens is inserted as one more evidence that she's more than just a little off. Several students are seen getting quite drunk—and in Tracy's case, so drunk she can't even walk. Sara gets tipsy when she unknowingly has four glasses of spiked punch. Her soon-to-be boyfriend tells her that the guys' expectation is that a drunk woman is a willing woman, and that they'll pay the price if they don't get her upstairs and into bed.
Rebecca's parents ask Sara if Rebecca is taking her medication. Sara later finds it and discovers it's an antipsychotic.
Other Negative Elements
A rank stereotype of mentally ill people consumes The Roommate. Sara keeps a kitten in her dorm room against university policy.
Rebecca's emptiness, obsession with Sara and longing for a sister should actually inspire empathy from moviegoers. Because while her illness may be portrayed as eerie, it's also devastating. But none of that is explored in The Roommate. Rebecca exists only as a salacious shell to be mocked and gasped at when her behavior spins out of control.
Have you ever wondered why so many of these movies get made? With the depth of a mud puddle in the Sahara, they have no lessons to teach, no role models to follow and painfully scant plots. And yet they make money. Why? As I asked myself this question while sitting glumly in my theater seat, the audience around me gradually answered it. They did so by laughing at all the "right" places—which typically meant someone was being hurt or threatened. They giggled over the lesbian kiss. They made sarcastic comments about the film's aesthetics—or lack thereof, actually. And then someone enthusiastically called out a telling comment: "There'll be a sequel! Yea!"
Schlock times sex plus a girl fight minus anything better to do apparently equals quality entertainment for more folks than I'm yet willing to admit exist.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Leighton Meester as Rebecca; Minka Kelly as Sara; Cam Gigandet as Stephen; Alyson Michalka as Tracy; Danneel Harris as Irene; Billy Zane as Professor Roberts
Christian E. Christiansen ( )
February 4, 2011
May 17, 2011