The Roommate

Misogynistic film is a dorm shame

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By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / February 5, 2011

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In “The Roommate,’’ Minka Kelly plays Sarah, a college freshman who comes from Iowa to someplace called Los Angeles University. If you’re not used to looking at Kelly (she spent three seasons on “Friday Night Lights’’) or at Leighton Meester, who is also in this movie (she’s the best thing about “Gossip Girl’’ and steals what little is worth stealing in “Country Strong’’), it’s possible to spend some of “The Roommate’’ confused about who’s who.

They both have long, angular faces. Kelly’s just happens to solve the mystery of what would happen if Jennifer Beals had Jennifer Lopez’s baby. (Sarah must come from the same place in Iowa that harvested the Christina Aguilera character in “Burlesque’’: Maxim Farms.)

Knowing your Minka from your Meester isn’t necessary to surmise that “The Roommate’’ has nothing interesting for us or either of them to do. It’s the latest in the blank-from-hell genre, in which misogyny and entertainment are made to seem indistinguishable while the blank makes life hell for someone who then is cornered into striking back.

Meester plays Sarah’s roommate, Rebecca, an art student who is obsessed with Richard Prince’s bleeding “Nurse’’ paintings and goes on the attack whenever her relationship with Sarah is threatened. That means cuts, bruises, and possibly curtains for Sarah’s new party-girl buddy, her ex-boyfriend, her current boyfriend (the scary but increasingly interesting Cam Gigandet, who also asked Aguilera to move in with him in “Burlesque’’), her fashion professor (Billy Zane conjuring a sleazy version of the designer and filmmaker Tom Ford), and Cuddles, her kitten.

Even Sarah’s best friend, a fashion stylist, is in trouble. The screenwriter, Sonny Mallhi, sets one scene in a shower as sexual, cinematic, and psychiatric shorthand (“Psycho’’!) and makes that best friend gay just so we know that Sarah knows what a happy lesbian is and that what’s wrong with Rebecca, regardless of her sexuality, is not sexual.

Directed by Christian E. Christensen, a Dane, “The Roommate’’ is dumb about psychology and suspense. Sarah finds Rebecca’s bottle of the prescription antipsychotic drug Zyprexa, but she can’t consult her dorm’s RA about any of this, lest the movie end before it reaches its brutal climax. On top of everything else, the wrong person ends up exiting through a wide-open window. The movie does produce an amusingly apt scene transition when the image of one of Rebecca’s dull sketches fades into a half-eaten Thanksgiving turkey. Amen to that.

Wesley Morris can be reached at


Directed by: Christian E. Christensen

Written by: Sonny Mallhi

Starring: Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 88 minutes

PG (some violence, mild crude and suggestive humor,and language)

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