Monday, May 23, 2011

The Roommate

Just down the road a bit, to the Southeast, about 30 miles from Wichita Kansas is a great little town named Winfield. It has a small college named Southwestern College. I know the college pretty well as my daughter graduated from there. A few months ago there was the release of the movie The Roommate which caused a bit of controversy in these parts. It seems as if the makers of the movie decided to use the front of one of the historic Buildings from the college on its movie poster. That wouldn’t have been such a big deal except the college never gave approval for the usage of the building and those associated with the school made it clear, they didn’t support this movie, or the usage of their schools image in the promotion of the movie. While the school was somewhat misguided in their description of the movie as a slasher film, there are certainly images from the movie that would be easy to see how a small Christian college would disapprove of the use of their school, especially when permission was never granted. One would hope for integrity but initial impressions can be wrong. Just as people sometimes go down the wrong path, so do movies.

My initial thoughts had me thinking that everyone critical of this movie had gotten it wrong. There is a decent cast; the movie is framed well, good lighting, quality editing, a decent cast and a promising concept. The story had a freshman, Sara, played by Minka Kelly entering her freshman year of college. She soon meets her roommate, Rebecca, played by Leighton Meester. It doesn’t take long for Sara to realize the controlling and possessive nature of Rebecca. Her friends start disappearing, and strange coincidences start to happen all around her. The Roommate provides a great deal of tease, not just in the sexual nature of the film, (there is no nudity but a lot of tease) but also in the story. There is some credit here that can be given to the director, Christian Christiansen, what seems a promising a fun tease turns out to be a massive letdown as the plot, and storyline falls short of what I expected.

As the story develops we see the literal craziness come out of Rebecca. We later find out that Rebecca has a mental illness and has not been taking her medications. If any credit is to be given, it could be said that Leighton Meester does an okay job at portraying this ruthless psychopath. Unfortunately Rebecca as we see portrayed is one that doesn’t present a fair representation of one with mental illness. In that regard, not only does the tease become a huge letdown, so does the movie as it seems to disrespect a segment of the population and the struggles they go through.

The acting in this movie, including each of the primary leads, is sub par at best. This is sad since it isn’t a bad cast. Unfortunately in their portrayals we see a reflection on colleges that is less than flattering. With the exception of the character played by Cam Gigandt, we see very few characters with positive attributes. Gigandt, who plays the boyfriend of Sara seems like a nice guy, if he only had something on his mind other than getting his girlfriend into bed with him. Unfortunately, the characters are one dimensional in virtually every part.

The Roommate reflects current trends in the development of relationships. The ‘me first’ attitude seems to be the prevailing train of thought. The character who seeks friendship is portrayed as the villain, and in virtually every way she is portrayed, she is the villain. The other friends are presented as those indulging in the over consumption of alcohol even though they are under age. They are also involved in random sex along with one night stands. The relationships being developed are done in a way that may please someone for awhile but does very little at providing a promising future. I couldn’t help but think of the concept presented in The New Testament by Jesus, ‘What does it profit one to gain the whole world and lose their soul?’ If there is anything positive presented here, we see the danger of following ones own selfish desires, and the dangers of one putting themselves into dangerous situations.

I liked the potential of this film, I hated the end results. There is virtually no gore, little scare, and I personally don’t like sexual or any other kind of tease, especially when that tease doesn’t deliver. Not only does The Roommate not deliver, it presents an image that continues to perpetuate the stereotypes and untruths regarding persons with mental illness. Movies have for years presented an image of the mentally ill as violent individuals, when in reality there is little violence perpetuated by persons with mental illness. To make and or use this stereotype about virtually any other population group would create uproar among those groups, yet, society and some movies, continue to use the mentally ill as a stepping stone to present hypocritical, and harmful images to a population who is already discriminated against enough. Unfortunately, many in the teenage audience will support this film and its message not being able to distinguish between the potential for fun, and the reality of the harm the images present.

I was also letdown with the tease of promising special features on the product box which stated: ‘Dangerously Sexy Special Features.’ What a joke! There are a few deleted and alternate scenes, totaling less than 5 minutes. Outside of the Directors commentary, which offers nothing of value, the special features are virtually non existent despite, the tease.

We live in a society where real friendships are rare. People desire relationship; it is one of the things that Christianity has the potential of using as a selling point. Unfortunately many push religion, and not the relationship, not realizing that all around them there are people starving for relationship. The Roommate touched on the importance and desire of relationship, but in such a horrid way that I can’t recommend sitting down to watch this movie if someone gave it to you and paid you for the time to watch it. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t live up to any of the billing, it isn’t scary or thrilling, has no sex appeal (not that I was looking for that but it is a concept promoted in the products packaging) and outside of having me realize the need for movies, and people to reach the teenage audience with something of sustenance, I just didn’t see anything of value here. I wish I could recommend The Roommate, but unfortunately I can’t. I suspect there will be those who enjoy this movie; I just am not one of them.

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