'The Roommate'

Low-rent pic won't evict "Single White Female" from its top-floor residence among psycho-roomie cinema.

Though easy on the eyes, TV stars Leighton Meester (“Gossip Girl”) and Minka Kelly (“Friday Night Lights”) can’t help “The Roommate” extend its short lease on the viewer’s imagination. Formulaic and forgettable, this would-be thriller about a mentally ill college student who’s violently obsessed with her dorm-room buddy (Kelly) is notable mainly for pushing the PG-13 rating to include phone sex, spiked punch, animal cruelty and Sapphic smooching. Feebly helmed by Danish director Christian E. Christiansen (“Zoomers”), the low-rent pic might occupy auds for a weekend, but won’t evict “Single White Female” from its top-floor residence among psycho-roomie cinema.

Arriving at the fictional U. of Los Angeles from Des Moines, cute Sara (Kelly), an aspiring fashion designer, gets dragged to a frat party, where she flirts with house-band drummer Stephen (Cam Gigandet) and accidentally drinks too much. Stumbling into her ludicrously mod dorm, she meets rich-kid roommate Rebecca (Meester), and the two become fast friends despite the latter’s lack of social skills. Early signs that the roommate, a compulsive sketch artist, may not be all right upstairs include her humorless insistence on not being called Becky and her hasty borrowing of a necklace that belonged to Sara’s dearly departed sister.

First to notice Rebecca’s creepily clingy demeanor is party girl Tracy (Aly Michalka), who learns she can’t be Sara’s friend without getting stalked in the shower. Turns out anyone close to Sara — including her ex-beau Jason (Matt Lanter), her fashion-plate pal Irene (Danneel Harris) and her scruffy kitten, Cuddles — stands at risk of serious psychic or bodily harm. By the time Rebecca brings Sara to her parents’ Pasadena mansion for Thanksgiving, with Mom and Dad (Frances Fisher and Tomas Arana) wondering whether their daughter has been taking her meds, it’s clear Cuddles won’t be the only one in a catfight.

As the violence predictably escalates, encouraging hunky Stephen to use his arms for something other than drumming, “The Roommate” vacates the realm of plausibility altogether. The attractive actors, including Billy Zane as Sara’s sleazy, beret-sporting prof, do what little they can to maintain interest, but the screenplay by exec producer Sonny Mallhi contains not a single surprise, while d.p. Phil Parmet’s images are so underlit and dingy that one has to squint to see what’s going on. Top to bottom, the pic’s tech package is dismal, with only a couple of moody pop songs to distinguish it.

The Roommate

Production

A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Screen Gems presentation of a Vertigo Entertainment production. Produced by Doug Davison, Roy Lee. Executive producers, Beau Marks, Sonny Mallhi. Directed by Christian E. Christiansen. Screenplay, Sonny Mallhi.

Crew

Camera (Deluxe color, Panavision widescreen), Phil Parmet; editor, Randy Bricker; music, John Frizzell; music supervisor, Michael Friedman; production designer, Jon Gary Steele; art director, Chris Cornwell; set decorators, Cynthia McCormac, Dena Roth; costume designer, Maya Lieberman; sound (Dolby/SDDS/DTS), Richard B. Goodman; supervising sound editor, Chic Ciccolini, III; re-recording mixers, Andy Koyama, Chris Carpenter; special effects supervisor, John Frazier; visual effects supervisor, Rocco Passionino; visual effects, Zoic Studios; associate producers, George Flynn, Irene Yeung; assistant director, Mark Anthony Little; casting, Lindsey Hayes Kroeger. Reviewed at AMC Southdale 16, Edina, Minn., Feb. 4, 2011. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Rebecca - Leighton Meester
Sara Matthews - Minka Kelly
Stephen - Cam Gigandet
Tracy - Aly Michalka
Irene - Danneel Harris
Rebecca's Mom - Frances Fisher
Rebecca's Dad - Tomas Arana
Professor Roberts - Billy Zane
Maria - Nina Dobrev
Jason - Matt Lanter

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