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Juan David Restrepo
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When a 'Single White Female' places an ad in the press for a similar woman to rent a room (to replace the boyfriend she's just left), all the applicants seem weird. Then along comes a level headed woman who seems to be just right. The new lodger has a secret past which haunts her. Written by
Single White Female is directed by Barbet Schroeder and adapted to screenplay by Don Roos from the novel "SWF Seeks Same" written by John Lutz. It stars Bridget Fonda, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Steven Weber, Peter Friedman and Stephen Tobolowsky. Music is by Howard Shore and cinematography by Luciano Tovoli.
When it's revealed that her partner Sam (Weber) has been cheating on her with his ex-wife, Allie Jones (Fonda) kicks him out of the apartment and advertises for a female roommate. She chooses Hedra Carlson (Leigh), who on the surface seems to be the perfect roommate. Smoothly helping Allie through her crisis, a real friendship is formed, but it's not long before Hedra starts to exhibit some dark behaviour patterns ..
The early 90s saw the "Woman from Hell" back in vogue in mainstream cinema. After the success and publicity of Fatal Attraction (1987), there was a period where you feel that sensible film makers wisely chose to let that particular film disappear from the film lovers memory banks. As it happens, they must have collectively chose 5 years as the cooling off period. For 1992 saw a wave of mad female on the loose pictures released. Led by the publicity gobbling Basic Instinct, films such as The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and Single White Female put bums on cinema seats and reopened the "Mad Bitch" sub-genre. Of the three, Single White Female grossed the least, which is strange since it's a better movie than the other two.
Schroeder's (Barfly/Reversal of Fortune) movie isn't a complete success, there's not enough development of the main characters and there's some unintentionally funny moments. But when it's good it's real good. Reeling off a number of memorable and often chilling scenes, film is further boosted by the psychological smarts in Roos' (Boys on the Side) screenplay. It helps that Schroeder has a knack for pacing, too, where he neatly simmers the plot until the spill over for the big finale. No disappointment there either, a good combination of genre staples is enhanced in impact by some unexpected character developments, and there's moments of genuine suspense to lure the viewer to the edge of their seat.
It's also stylishly shot by Schroeder and Tovoli (Suspiria/Tenebrae). Allie's Upper West Side apartment is imposing and expansive, with high ceilings, old time plumbing, a clunky lift and a dingy laundry in the basement. It's a different set-up for such a thriller, no picket fence harmony house or beach side residence, this is bustling New York, big spaces, but as it turns out, that means no hiding place. The boys behind the cameras get the maximum they can from the locale by blending imposing and ominous with grainy veneer and filtered light. On the acting front, the girls put great effort into making their thinly developed characters work, with Leigh doing a good line in progressive instability. While Friedman, Weber and a wonderfully naughty Tobolowsky, make the most of their secondary roles.
One or two obvious flaws aside, this still rounds out as a thoroughly enjoyable thriller. 7.5/10
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