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The Roommate Blu-ray Review

The Roommate (2011) movie poster The Roommate

Theatrical Release: February 4, 2011 / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Christian E. Christiansen / Writer: Sonny Mallhi

Cast: Leighton Meester (Rebecca Evans), Minka Kelly (Sara Matthews), Cam Gigandet (Stephen), Aly Michalka (Tracy), Danneel Harris (Irene), Frances Fisher (Rebecca's Mom - Allison Evans), Tomas Arana (Rebecca's Dad - Jeff Evans), Billy Zane (Professor Roberts), Nina Dobrev (Maria), Matt Lanter (Jason), Katerina Graham (Kim)

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Sony subsidiary Screen Gems adds to its series of PG-13 remakes of somewhat obscure thrillers with The Roommate, an unofficial collegiate variation on Single White Female.

Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly, "Friday Night Lights") is a freshman at the University of Los Angeles. Like any teenaged girl from Des Moines, Iowa, Sara has come out west with fashion design ambitions. While the movie takes some interest in those aspirations, there are more pressing matters at hand. Like, of course, her roommate.

Stylish ULA freshman Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly) talks her way into the fashion design course she desires. Rebecca (Leighton Meester), the roommate, admires the way a dangling earring looks on her newly self-pierced lobe.

California native Rebecca Evans (Leighton Meester, "Gossip Girl") seems like a pretty good draw at first. She is friendly, if a bit introverted. Before long, she also reveals herself as overprotective of her new (and seemingly only) friend, discouraging Sara
from associating with the likes of flighty party girl dorm mate Tracy (Alyson Michalka, "Hellcats"). Secretly, Rebecca takes drastic steps to secure unrivaled access to Sara.

Rebecca's behavior raises some questions, but no red flags for Sara. Naturally, viewers recognize psychotic tendencies in the guarded art student almost immediately, should they not know to expect them coming in. But Rebecca keeps her obsessive jealousy and sociopathic ways hidden from her treasured roommate, leaving their friendship strong and mutual.

Meanwhile, Sara forms a less platonic relationship with drummer frat guy Stephen (Twilight's Cam Gigandet). This is yet another arrangement Rebecca regards as a threat, as she plots to keep Sara to herself, as her roommate and as her Thanksgiving company. Anything getting in the way, from suave Professor Roberts (Billy Zane) and lesbian globe-trotting designer Irene (Danneel Harris) to adopted stray kitten Cuddles and the memory of Sara's dead older sister, is a potential outlet for Rebecca's secret unmedicated schizophrenic psychoses. Can Sara recognize the danger and avoid it before it's too late? I can't say, because the answer doesn't come until the film's perilous climax.

Fratboy drummer Stephen (Cam Gigandet) turns up the charm at the coffee shop where  love interest Sara works. Free-spirited dorm mate Tracy (Aly Michalka) has her shower disturbed, in a supposed homage to Alfred Hitchcock.

The debut screenplay of recently seasoned horror producer Sonny Mallhi, The Roommate gives no credit to Single White Female, nor does it need to legally since it's far from the only tale about a frightening obsessive friendship. Though its slick look (courtesy of Danish director Christian E. Christiansen's American debut) and vaguely recognizable cast members make its status as a 2011 theatrical release unquestionable, this often has the feel of one of those TV movies one can often find on the Lifetime Movie Network. I don't know that it's a gender thing, but The Roommate could only really play with both protagonist and antagonist being female. Much of its intended unease stems from teenaged girls' natural civility and comfortable rapport with each other. The film establishes those things and then spends most of its runtime trying to topple them with the jarring, outlandish notion that a freshman coed could be deranged, destructive, and possibly even deadly.

The movie doesn't push hard in its depictions, relying more on suggestion, suspicion, and stares than actual malice. Rebecca is clearly trouble to us, but for two-thirds of the film, Sara thinks highly of her.
The dramatic irony of that design only yields mild thrills. Some of the moments meant to have the greatest impact produce not chills but unintended laughs. The Roommate is more interesting in its half-hearted portrayal of casual contemporary college life than in the obsession that occupies it, and, as you can imagine, the former isn't particularly scintillating.

As is usually the case in Hollywood, the college students here are played by actors in their mid-to-late twenties. Hailing from network television (assuming The CW counts as that), not much can be expected of the two leading ladies. Meester squanders the potential juiciness of the more active role, her face often on the verge of a smile, not the disconcerting, devilish kind but the "boy, being the star of a movie is fun" kind. The most theatrically experienced, Gigandet is most at ease with the material, but he maintains only a peripheral presence as Sara's charming boyfriend.

Much like other recent Screen Gems thrillers (a class that includes Obsessed, Prom Night, and The Stepfather), The Roommate was coldly received by critics, earning a lowly 4% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In spite of that drubbing, the film still performed as expected at the box office, generating a healthy profit with a $37 million gross on a $16 M budget in a short, front-loaded winter run that began with a handy #1 Super Bowl weekend opening. The film is now available on DVD and Blu-ray, with the rest of this review looking at the latter.

The Roommate Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
DTS-HD 5.1 MA (English, French, Portuguese),
Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English, Spanish, and Portuguese
Release Date: May 17, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $34.95
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on DVD ($28.95 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Roommate has dark, saturated visuals. It's not a very appealing look, but you can't fault the Blu-ray for carrying out the director and cinematographer's wills. The 2.40:1 picture is sharp and clean. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is equally adequate. It is marked by a number of brief, blaring party and dance club scenes. Beyond that, John Frizzell's forgettable score is nicely conveyed and dialogue remains crisp, clear, and audible. Like the movie itself, the mix is easy to take for granted and unlikely to inspire passionate disapproval.

Rebecca (Leighton Meester) shoots a sultry blue-lit look on the dance floor of a lesbian nightclub, successfully seducing Sara's friend in this deleted scene. In a solo commentary and two featurettes, Danish director Christian E. Christiansen discusses all that went into his American debut. You heard me right: his name is Christian E. Christiansen.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Though it is the studio most associated with the Blu-ray format, Sony only began taking the increasingly common route of keeping most bonus features exclusive to Blu-ray a few months back. The Roommate adds to that trend, giving the standard DVD crowd just two types of bonus features. First up is an audio commentary by director Christian E. Christiansen, which he recorded in Denmark months before the film's release.
His Danish accent distinguishes otherwise ordinary and mundane remarks about his interest in film and the making of this one (locations, techniques, etc.). At least, he confesses the obvious, that other movies inform his view of American college life.

The other common inclusion, seven Deleted & Alternate Scenes (6:09, SD) -- inexplicably not enhanced for 16:9 -- offer an atmospheric alternate opening titles sequence and an assortment of snippets. The latter include Rebecca's ocular dancefloor seduction of Irene and the aftermath of their implied tryst (meant to surround a surviving scene).

The Blu-ray exclusives begin with "Obsession: The Making of The Roommate" (8:45, HD), an ordinary production featurette dealing cast and crew comments around B-roll and movie clips. A making-of piece on a film you don't like can be grating, but everyone seems pretty decent and grounded in their discussion of the characters and story.

Costume design was critical on "The Roommate", or so Maya Lieberman argues in her unbiased position of costume designer. No one can blame Rebecca (Leighton Meester) for wanting to snap a shot of Cam Gigandet in one of their last scenes together, nor the Blu-ray menu-makers for preserving it in a full color layer.

"The Roommate: The Next Generation of Stars" (5:27, HD) sings the praises of the young stars, with the actors also lending insight into their approaches to the parts. "Dressing Dangerously" (3:50, HD) briefly turns our attentions to the film's costume design, which matters to costume designer Maya Lieberman, who makes analytical comments on the characters' styles with looks at the wardrobe department's attire.

The last extra is Sony's standard BD-Live-enabled movieIQ mode, which is supposed to
complement playback of the film with fun facts and actor and music identification. Unfortunately, "an error occurred" in downloading my update the several times I tried to play it (maybe the information isn't available yet?).

Finally, also by the power of BD-Live, one can stream bonus feature clips from recent and upcoming Sony Blu-rays (including The Roommate!).

The disc opens with Sony's Blu-ray 3D pitch featuring the stars of Open Season. That is followed by trailers for Insidious, Just Go With It, and Country Strong. The trailers are individually accessible from the menu, along with ones for Beastly and You Got Served: Beat the World.

The Blu-ray menu tints scenes from the movie red, as if to make up for the film's minimal bloodshed. The inspired disc-loading graphic turns a friendly roommate picture into something quite different. Bookmarks are supported on the film, but otherwise playback frustratingly does not resume following a power-off (thanks, BD-J).

There is no slipcover and the only insert is an ad for 3D and Sony's make.believe manta, but the inside of the side-snapped slim translucent case artwork displays a large, fitting photo from the film.

Nothing lasts forever...not even the joys of friendship that college roommates Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly) and Rebecca Evans (Leighton Meester) feel on Los Angeles day outing.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Roommate is a subpar thriller that gets worse as it progresses and hits rock-bottom at its nonsensical ending. There are really just two reasons to consider seeing this: adoration for any or all of the young lead actors or a soft spot for PG-13 horror, that commercially viable and often critically unloved creature that maintains a regular presence on Hollywood's calendars. Even such predispositions aren't likely to mine much enjoyment from this uninspired dud.

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The Roommate Songs List: The Temper Trap - "Fader", Shaimus - "Tie You Down", K'Naan featuring Chubb Rock - "ABC's", Jump Jump Dance Dance - "City on Fire", Moufette - "Walk On", Ellis - "Red Light", Abbey - "The Gaze You Gave", Drew Smith - "Clockwork", Dekoder - "Higher", Jump Jump Dance Dance - "Modern Eyes", Empire of the Sun - "We are the People", Mike Bloom - "Devil's Island", Digital Noise Academy - "Melting Inside", Aly Michalka - "Crimson and Clover", Blind Pilot - "The Story I Heard", Digital Daggers - "Surrender", Shaimus - "Let Go", Ken Andrews - "Secret Things", Feersum Ennjin - "Dragon", X5 - "The Focus", C-Mon - "Mirrors", Great Northern - "Houses"

The Roommate: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Music by John Frizzell:
Download from iTunes Download Amazon MP3s Buy CD from Amazon.com

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Reviewed May 20, 2011.



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