By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 4, 2011; 9:42 PM
There's a decent B-thriller on offer about psycho-sexual obsession between two young women who, while living together in close quarters, begin to undergo an eerie transfer of personae.
It's called "Single White Female," and it's available on Netflix or from Ye Olde Video Shoppe.
There's another B-thriller at large that, while laying claim to the same setup, neurotic dynamics and whacked-out violence, fails miserably in nearly every department - from thrills to homoerotic titillation. "The Roommate," starring TV-minted personalities Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester, switches the action from a New York apartment to a dorm at the "University of Los Angeles," where Sara (Kelly) has just moved from Des Moines, with big dreams and a broken heart. There to lend a sympathetic ear - when she's not busy piercing it herself with alarming sangfroid - is roomie Rebecca (Meester), a troubled little rich girl who latches on to Sara with the carefully calibrated ardor of a well-seasoned stalker.
Sara doesn't twig to Rebecca's dark side - where did their pet kittycat go, anyway? - until it's much, much too late. If the sudden jolts of violence arrive with military precision (one half-hour into the movie and at 15-minute intervals thereafter), "The Roommate" doesn't have the courage of its pulpy convictions, preferring to leave the gore on the floor and its true identity as a lipstick-tinged slasher film in the closet.
In its fascination with girl-on-girl action, from longing glances and kissing to a climactic catfight that's less lurid than ludicrous, "Roommate" plays like the ultimate indulgence of leering Hollywood executives, eager to ogle pulchritudinous college girls and call it work. Rest assured, the only work involved is watching the tiresome parade of flat line readings, workmanlike plot "twists" and pore-magnifying close-ups.
Kelly and Meester hit their marks and look pretty doing it, while supporting players Cam Gigandet, Billy Zane and Aly Michalka fade into the background so blandly that viewers will never remember they were there.
Speaking of forgettables, "Roommate" was directed without distinction by someone named Christian E. Christiansen, who hails from Denmark. Of course, Scandinavia has given the world its share of classic psychological thrillers, one in particular that delved deeply into the twinned psyches of two women's relationship.
Come to think of it, forget "Single White Female." Rent Ingmar Bergman's "Persona" instead, then watch and learn.
The Roommate 1/2 (92 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for violence and menace, sexual content, profanity and teen partying.THE ROOMMATE