The Roommate (15)
dir:Christian E Christiansen
This can't just be a normal film review. In the interests of full disclosure, Assange style, I have never reviewed a film in my life. Don't turn the page just yet; trust me, I chose a good film for you. Well, I say "good" in the loosest possible terms. I mean, there is a lesbian kiss, and it's about female obsession. I know, not very New Statesman, but if I couldn't offer you phrases like "a tightly wound structure in Act II" as other critics could, I could at least have "this was when the nubile room-mate Rebecca kissed cinnamon lipstick off Irene". So, there's method in the madness of my choosing The Roommate to review.
I'll get to the actual oeuvre in a moment. First, though, you have no idea of the etiquette involved in being a reviewer. I thought you just turned up, watched a film and went away. Not so. We gathered in a pre-film foyer. Leather blousons and macs abounded. The old guard scoffed at such newfangled wizardry as an iPhone; the Young Turks spluttered, "I know, you disapprove." Then we were released down some stairs into a screening room. Everyone walked with purpose. I followed with purpose. We went in and I sat down. The rest of them walked in and left. Then I rumbled their plan - they were just leaving their coats - so I tried to exit the screening room. But unlike at the local Vue, there was not a helpful exit sign in sight and the door turned out to be secreted in a wall. Finally, someone opened a section of the wall miles away from the part I was shouldering like an All Black, and I acted cool and went to see where everyone had gone.
Well, for midday, there was practically a Bacchanalian feast going on. The critics had scurried off to the bar where all the sandwiches and cakes imaginable were laid on, and while those Young Turks stuck to elderflower, the old guard were sinking Cabernets and Chardonnays. No one was talking about anything other than film. It was really rather heart-warming to be in a room full of obsessives. Their knives were at the ready, admittedly, but it felt more like a boozy Trekkies' convention.
Having been on the receiving end of, shall we say, "constructive criticism", I find the idea of critics and the reality of them are very different. It's rather like in Scooby-Doo when they capture the dastardly baddy, only to peel off his face and reveal him as the toothless old janitor. Then again, when you see them all pile into the screening room, pens poised in the dark, you realise they have the power to destroy, in a few disdainful words, the hard work of at least a year, if not two, or maybe even seven.
And so we arrive at the oeuvre, The Roommate. It's described as a psychological thriller about "friendship and obsession" - conveniently, not between two fat truckers, but the aforementioned nubile Rebecca (Leighton Meester) and her beautiful room-mate Sara (Minka Kelly). Sara is from Des Moines, Iowa - signalling her naivety in the jazzy environment of LA college life. Rebecca turns out to be an overprivileged, but underloved, rich kid.
The message, loud and clear from the outset, was this girl is definitely a bit weird. What unfolds is a highly predictable foray into the realms of thrillerdom, subsection "College". Sara likes Rebecca as a pal; Rebecca really likes Sara; Sara settles in, finds boyfriend, other friends, a mentor and a kitten, all of which take Sara's attention away from Rebecca - and Rebecca really doesn't like that.
The twists and turns are more like "mirror, signal, indicate right, manoeuvre", but, on the plus side, the film looks good. Damning with nigh-on invisible praise, I know, but the director, Christian E Christiansen - so good they named him twice - is a graduate of the National Film School of Denmark, and despite its quintessentially American setting, he has given the film a nicely dour, puritanical atmosphere.
I can't arrive at anything more encouraging to say about it. When one of the lines from an art tutor to a pupil is, "I love the danger in your work," that tells you everything you need to know about a film. Oh no! I have become that very same dastardly janitor. Memo to self: end on an up note. It did really well in the States.
Er, is that an up note?
Daisy Donovan is a television presenter, actress and writer