In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_sin_city_a_dame_to_kill_for_ver13

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

"Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" doesn't have the electricity of the original, mainly because we've already seen it. Nothing more is really revealed…

Thumb_pqlny7o714q2rle1gszmorzzjue

To Be Takei

“To Be Takei” is a conventional documentary that has a surprising emotional heft. A fun, informative exploration of the life of actor, activist and Trekkie…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Single White Female

  |  

There is a certain rising tide of madness in "Single White Female" that is one of the movie's pleasures - evidence that it was made by a man who directs films instead of simply manufacturing them.

This is a story which, in other hands, could have simply been an all-female slasher movie, but Barbet Schroeder, who produced and directed it, has a mordant humor that pushes the material over the top. It is a slasher movie, and a little more.

Hollywood likes movies with a "high concept," by which they mean, I think, a low concept - a plot idea that can be simply explained in one sentence that will sell. "Single White Female" has a terrific high concept: It's about a "roommate from hell." Allison, the heroine, played by Bridget Fonda, advertises for a roommate, and after carefully screening out several nut cases and victims of assorted obsessions, ends up with a candidate who looks ideal.

Her name is Hedra Carlson. She is played by Jennifer Jason Leigh as a sweet-faced, friendly little innocent. Those are the ones you have to look out for. I cannot find "hedra" in my unabridged dictionary, and yet somehow the name teases me. Surely it is the name of a mythological beast? One with a rent receipt in one hand and a kitchen knife in the other? The progression of the movie is more or less as we expect it, beginning with Allison and Hedra as close friends, and ending in bloodshed and death. What is intriguing is the way Schroeder progresses from beginning to end. There are many steps along the way, involving downstairs neighbors, boyfriends, and others who belong to Allison and soon seem to belong to Hedra, too, as do lots of Allison's clothes and eventually even her hairstyle and coloring.

Hedra, it is revealed, was a twin, and apparently wants to become one again, if only a twice-orphaned one.

One of the first shots in the movie shows the building where Allison has her apartment. It is one of those vast New York buildings that make ideal settings for movies like "Rosemary's Baby" - clanging, echoing old structures that give the director an excuse for carefully planted gimmicks, like that screwdriver that makes the elevator door budge.

Schroeder, whose most recent credits include "Barfly" (the Mickey Rourke drunk movie) and "Reversal of Fortune" (with Jeremy Irons as Claus von Bulow), is clearly fascinated by characters at the extremes of the human spectrum. That is perhaps why "Single White Female" builds to a manic crescendo instead of simply delivering the required number of slashes and quitting. There is one climax after another after another here, until it seems as if the characters will drop of exhaustion, and yet they fight on. There is a kind of mad artistic zeal to their passionate duel, underlined by the fact that both Fonda and Leigh pull out all the stops in their performances, and that they do eventually look so much like one another that it's creepy.

I have long adopted a generic approach to film criticism, evaluating movies as examples of what they aspire to be. No genre is beyond redemption or beneath contempt, and here the slasher genre is given its due with strong performances and direction. Of course, you may despise movies like this, but that is another subject.

Popular Blog Posts

Different rules apply

White privilege, lived.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Ferguson, Missouri: Third World America vs. Atlas Shrugged

An FFC looks at the horrible situation in Ferguson, MO and what it says about where we are and where we're going.

Retrieving the Grail: Robin Williams and "The Fisher King"

An examination and appreciation of one of Robin Williams' greatest films, "The Fisher King."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus