Single White Female (1992)
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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
Jennifer Jason Leigh steals the show in this film, she does a superb job handling the transition in the character of Heddy with her body language and shyness into the transition of a sexually charged woman, who is assertive and obviously losing her grip on reality. She takes more risks and becomes bold and violent. Overall much better and more entertaining than any of the crap you will find being made today in Hollywood. Don't expect Shakespeare and just enjoy the ride.
Overall rating: 8 out of 10.
The idea of a female at the terrorist psycho in a movie is fun, and certainly refreshing for fans of slasher films; however, living with the characters for two hours is like living with your least favorite room-mate for two months; Brigit Fonda plays a confused city girl who wants to make ends meet by illegally subletting her apartment; she even takes pictures of her candidates. Naturally, an endless line of women submit to this without question. Jennifer Leigh shows up as Fonda is in the middle of a boyfriend breakdown and Fonda decides she's her room-mate. The boyfriend is presented as clueless clod, Jennifer Leigh does a good job playing a depressed woman with a flat affect and a penchant for threats, Brigit is practically helpless, and everyone else in the movie, especially her boss, are jerks. There is really no-one to like in this movie. In addition, everyone's actions are off-putting and mean-spirited; Brigit's boss decides he doesn't want to pay her the over-time she's earned unless she puts out; Brigit has installed software on her computer to automatically wipe out her work if he doesn't. The boyfriend thinks at one-quarter speed and can't make up his mind, and Brigit can't walk away from him. The slasher scenes almost seem like a further irritation than a scare by the time they come. The movie really doesn't provide suspense and terror; instead it substitutes manipulation (and heavy-handed manipulation at that), meanness and ugliness. Why this received high ratings as a suspense movie is a mystery...but there are far better ones at Blockbuster. Three out of ten stars.
Barbet Schroeder creates his own style in a film which (with two effective lead performances) manages to elicit tension, even if it is not full of surprises. The plot line is not unlike that of the recent "Poison Ivy", and the style is a little akin to "Basic Instinct". However, "Single White Female" is a definite improvement on both of these films, though it is not as good as some other thrillers of late. Unnerving, but never outstanding.
Saturday, October 10, 1992 - Knox District Centre
Bridget Fonda is also good, as Allison Jones, a NY designer on her way up, (there is an amusing scene with Stephen Tobolowsky as her sleazy client). It is a bit hard to believe the square footage of the NY apartment however, for two young single girls to be renting something that size. Also, some scenes reminded me of Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby"; the laundry room, the storage area, etc.
Steven Weber is the faithless fiancé, with whom Fonda has a falling-out, and then Hedy (Jason Leigh) decides he is fair game. She has a psychological disorder, apparently lost her twin sister at a young age, and has never recovered.
The usual psychodrama ensues. Fonda's upstairs neighbor, Graham, attempts to help her, advises her to get Hedy to leave the apartment. One scene which is quite odd is where Allison follows Hedy to a bar, there is some inference to "S and M" type behavior, but this is not developed. Strange.
Worth watching for Jason Leigh's performance, or if you like Bridget Fonda. Not the best thriller- If you want something truly psychologically frightening rent Polanski's "Repulsion", starring Catherine Deneuve.
Then the relationship begins to get a little twisted. Lee begins to delete phone messages from Fonda's estranged boyfriend, Sam. They begin going through each others' closets, drawers, secret shoeboxes, and other forbidden information preserves. There are intrigues, sexual and otherwise. Lee adopts Fonda's style of grooming and actually looks like her, which displeases Fonda and fools Fonda's boyfriend Sam. Lee murders a puppy. Then she evidently kills Graham, the gay upstairs neighbor, gives Sam an intraorbital prefrontal lobotomy with a stiletto heel, and puts two or three holes through the face of Fonda's libidinous scuzzbag of a boss. Lee, a complete fruitcake by now, ties Fonda to a chair with duct tape from which Fonda tries desperately to escape, only to find, when successful, that she is pursued by a deranged Lee down to the basement of the huge apartment building. It is all supposed to have something to do with Lee's twin sister who died at nine, but that's psychobabble.
I want to get back to Graham, the gay upstairs neighbor. He has a habit of listening to the conversations downstairs through the grating of a heater. (Cf., the same device in "The Horse Soldiers.") This prompted me to wonder what the hell kind heaters they have in this apartment building. But that's not what I wanted to get back to Graham for. I wanted to get back to him because of what happens to him about two-thirds of the way through. He's discovered something about Lee and when he confronts her in his apartment, she loses it, jabs him in the stomach with the iron prop bar from the door, then bashes his head in -- twice.
The end of Graham, right? He is incommunicado and unable to help Fonda when things get bad for her because, after all, he's somewhat dead and must by now have assumed room temperature. Well, not exactly, because near the end we see that Lee has stashed his body under water in his own bathtub, his dead cat perched placidly on his chest.
Graham has been feeling like this for hours. And yet, when Fonda is really IN EXTREMIS, and Lee is about to plug her with an automatic, Graham, ever the unflappable, ever the Mad Monk, springs to life, jumps out of the bathtub and temporarily disables Lee. And he's not even DRIPPING.
The first two thirds of the movie are pretty well done. (I bought the DVD.) Nice photography and good performances from the two leads. The men are incompetent nincompoops as always, never there when you need them, and are easily forgotten. But the intricacy of the relationship between Fonda and Lee is nicely rendered. Lee has the splashier role and makes the most of it. She is thoroughly deglamorized to emphasize the contrast between her and Fonda, although to be sure Fonda can be made to look a little crummy too if the role calls for it.
Barbet Schroeder, the director, certainly knows where the put the camera. Alas, he shrugs and throws away the story at the slasher climax. Just when someone is doing something a bit naughty, a figure appears in the background and looks over her shoulder. Fonda is hiding in an air vent from Lee, who is pursuing her with one of those lethal stevedore cargo-lifting hooks that can be found in every basement. Lee is creeping around, demented, eager to kill. Nevertheless, Fonda is so frightened of a mouse that she betrays her location.
The film does have a good deal of redeeming social value though, in that it contains ample nudity and sex in various forms that should be familiar to any cultivated viewer.
It's all quite impossible to take seriously but it is engaging.
This interesting story was quite a topic of conversation when it came out 15 years ago. By now, it's probably considered fairly tame, and nothing that shocking or special. Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh star with Leigh getting the juicier role as the wacko, "Hedy Carlson." Character studies of people like her are usually entertaining. Leigh has made a career of playing totally immoral women. She also shows a lot of skin in this movie, something else she likes to do in her films.
Fonda's character, "Allie Jones," is no Mary Poppins, either, or should I say Fonda isn't anybody pure. The movie shows several scenes of her having sex with her boyfriend. This actress isn't shy, either.
The movie starts building its suspense about halfway through when Leigh - the roommate and admirer of Fonda - begins to lose her girlfriend to that guy....and decides to do something about it.
There really isn't a lot of violence in this movie, mainly just at the end. It's a good suspense movie, though, which builds and builds. It's good for one viewing.
Bridget Fonda plays Allison Jones who learns that her fiancé has cheated on her with his ex-wife. She ends the relationship but doesn't want to live alone so puts an advert in the newspaper for a flatmate. Out of the applicants she chooses Hedra 'Hedy' Carlson a mousy girl played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, at first she seems like the ideal choice but things start to go wrong when it appears that Allie and her fiancé are getting back together. Hedy is determined to keep them apart, at the same time she starts to dress like Allie and even changes her hair style and colour to match. Things soon spiral out of control leading to a violent confrontation between Allie and Hedy. There is also a sub-plot about Allie's work involving a client who sexually harasses her then fails to pay for her services.
Even though I ticked the "Contains Spoilers" box I have tried to keep them to a minimum as a thriller won't be very thrilling if you know too much. As mentioned before, the acting is good and the plot is fairly plausible till the climax when it becomes a fairly standard confrontation between the two protagonists. There isn't too much violence and what there is isn't all that graphic, there is however a fair amount of sexual content and nudity which I suppose some viewers might feel uncomfortable with.
It all begins when Allison Jones (played by Brigit Fonda) rents a room in her apartment, after breaking up with her boyfriend, to a girl called Hedra Carlson (Jennifer Jason Leigh), someone she didn't know. In the beginning everything was being OK but suddenly she starts finding out some strange things about her... and the troubles begin...
This thriller has some good suspense scenes and a nice plot, but I was expecting a little more of it. I had already seen it some years ago, and at that time I did like it, as I did now, but it seemed to be a little better at that first time. Today I enjoyed it but found it nothing special, nothing too much above average; especially if we take count on its final disclosure. I think it could have been much better.
I was thinking score it 7/10, mainly because of the plot, but after remember that standard and unsatisfying ending I can't score it more than a 6/10.
The 1990's was a big step towards engaging actresses into more notable lead roles. Kathy Bates in Misery, Susan Sarandon and Gena Davis in Thelma and Louise and Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs turned many memorable Oscar winners and nominees in some fantastic pictures and the playing field seemed to generate more female stars who are still remembered today. So a year after Ridley Scott's dramatic Thelma and Louise picture in 1991 could Fonda and Leigh generate the same level of press attention and accolade? The premise was definitely there. The claustrophobic feel of the plot with a stalker of a room mate and obsession reflects the nature of Kathy Bates' character in Misery and the whole love and cheating concepts could easily merit those reflected in Scott's picture but this never materialized. We are left with some, what can only be described as dull and boring soap styled concepts. The whole 'my partner has left me and now I'm depressed' is as flat as a pancake and Leigh's inclusion, whilst initially spicing things up became equally dull.
What follows is a collection of mad antics by Leigh's awkward character and Fonda's struggling Allie. The pairing isn't too bad. There are some spicy moments that generate good drama and tension between the pair. The whole dog thing is a good reflection, as is the already mentioned stunning climax.
The direction by Schroeder is frequently muddled. From high shots to low shots and the inclusion of the odd tracking shots there is never a settling momentum to carry the picture through its dramatic stages. The final half an hour is well handled as the script notches up a gear into flowing momentum with a good final ending.
If you feel inclined to turn off after ten minutes then you can be forgiven as there is little to match your enthusiasm for this picture.
But if you get up to the inclusion of the dog then you may as well carry on as the final stages generate some stunning tension.
Single White Female is what you may call a wonderful promise that was horribly muddled. It's described as a dramatic thriller and the whole 'drama' part is evident throughout being soapier than a Dove product, but the thriller tag never is evident still the stunning climax that is great, but simply not justification of what we saw, and we are simply rolling our heads and imagining what could have been.
This movie is about 2 roomates, one of coarse becomes obsessed with the other. Really creepy but falls to the typical horror cliche in exchanging good movie making for blood and gore. Another one that COULD have been marvelous, it certainly had the right cast.This movie should have based it's fear factor on psychological horror, in the form of Silence of the Lambs which doesn't show much gore but still manages to be reeally scary! I laso think this movie rips off other good horrors such as "Fatal attraction".
I would never see this movie again and am sorry I saw it in the first place. Just a poor substitute for a great thriller.
Allie Jones (Bridget Fonda) is a young New York City software designer who throws her live-in lover called Sam (Steven Weber) out of their apartment when she discovers that he recently cheated on her with his ex-wife. Allie doesn't relish the idea of living alone and so advertises for a roommate to share the cost of her large Manhattan apartment. After receiving numerous expressions of interest, Allie spontaneously decides to invite the rather withdrawn-looking Hedy Carlson (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to move in.
Hedy and Allie soon become good friends but Allie gradually starts to become unnerved by some of Hedy's behaviour. Sam then tries to reconcile with Allie but Hedy intercepts and hides his letter and erases the messages that he leaves on the telephone answering machine. Later, when Sam seems to have been accepted back by Allie, Hedy tries to discredit him by killing Allie's dog and making it appear that he was responsible. Things then get worse for Allie when Hedy copies her hairstyle and taste in clothes so closely that the two women look like doubles.
The discomfort and anger that Allie experiences as a result of Hedy's changed appearance becomes even more intense when she discovers that her roommate had lied about her past and her identity and had also recently started to visit nightclubs where she adopted Allie's identity. Allie then becomes desperate to get rid of her roommate but when Hedy finds out, she becomes increasingly psychotic and degenerates into blackmail, hostage taking and murder before her rampage is finally brought to a halt.
Hedy's identical twin had died in childhood and the lack of completeness that she'd felt through the rest of her life was at the root of her obsession with Allie and her need to be her "twin". She carried a profound sense of guilt about her secret past and this clearly played a part in her insanity. Jennifer Jason Leigh is exceptional as this woman who not only uses three different identities but also goes through some extraordinary and extreme behavioural changes. The fact that she portrays these so convincingly is very impressive and worthy of high praise.
Allie is confident and smart but also vulnerable and it was possibly Hedy's neediness that registered with Allie and made her seem to be a suitable potential roommate. Allie also has the misfortune to be badly abused by everyone around her from her unfaithful boyfriend, to a client who sexually assaults her and even a trusted neighbour who'd regularly been listening in to her most intimate conversations. Bridget Fonda is remarkably subtle and believable in the way that she conveys the various complexities of Allie's character.
The quality of the acting in this movie is consistently good but the outstanding supporting performance comes from Stephen Tobolowsky who is disgustingly smug and sleazy as Allie's business client who tries to exploit her financially and sexually.
Leigh's performance is inspired. The character of Heddy isn't really all that interesting. She is built upon dime story psychoanalysis and is kind of annoying. Leigh however has really made the most out of a terribly written character. Leigh's performance I felt draws us away from Fonda's Allie. Which character is more compelling? The sad psychotic? Or the walking stereotype New York working woman? It's an easy choice to say the least. Leigh adds an interesting dimension to this character. We pity her even to the point where we realize that she is capable of awful things. There are several scenes that with a lesser actress would like pretty stupid but Leigh makes them work despite our senses. I refer to the scenes where Leigh doubles as the Fonda character. The scene where Heddy reveals her haircut is chilling in a great way. Heddy seems innocent and not insane despite the fact we know she is.
Of course for a film about a 'failed friendship' to work there has to be some give and take. Fonda gives Leigh nothing to work with. In fact her performance causes problems. She plays Allie as stuck up to the point where we don't really care what happens to her. I cared more for the puppy than Allie and that is kind of disappointing that an actress like Fonda can't draw my attention away from the dog. Some of Heddy's insults actually seem valid. Fonda's Allie seems like she can't function without a man.
What kind of got me also was that the film seems a little sexist. The Allie character is driven completely by sex. She goes back to her boyfriend almost immediately and this takes away from the character and the film. This whole 'strong woman' theme the film pretends to have is laughable because most of the film is about Allie being tortured by her feminine insecurity. Heddy is the stronger woman of the two and by far the more interesting.
Fonda as Allie dumps her two-timing boyfriend and is looking for a new roommate within something like a fortnight - OK, first of all this is way too soon. I agree with Hedra when she asks 'Is there any chance you guys might patch things up? Because I don't want to move in and have things change.' She had no business getting a roommate whilst she was still getting over Sam. Her neighbour Gram says after the breakup 'You can always call him, Allie.' To which she replies, 'Not if I have a roommate.'
Therefore (I know it is mean of me) I sometimes find it difficult to empathise fully with Fonda's character, and find myself sympathising with Heddie at times.I blame the writers for this. Allie seemed to be annoyed with Heddie that she was around when Sam moved back in, but she was forgetting that she was responsible for putting Heddie in that situation. Three may be a crowd but Allie made that crowd. Similarly, Allie seemed to virtually ignore Heddie when her boyfriend was there, pretending she didn't exist which is really mean, whoever you are. Especially after treating Heddie like her best friend. When Allie turned her back on her roommate, Heddie didn't know where she stood.
I'm not justifying Heddie's actions, nor am I saying that Allie brought it upon herself. All I'm saying is, she should have been more careful and more considerate and more thoughtful in her actions. With this type of thriller, you pity the villainess rather than truly hate her, which I think is interesting. Although I don't see how all the nudity had any bearing on the story whatsoever!
SINGLE WHITE FEMALE is a study in borderline personality disorder. Its subject is one Hedra Carlson (played to the hilt by Jennifer Jason Leigh). She is the answer to any tenant's prayer: calm, quiet, bookish, unassuming. It obvious she isn't there to create problems but to share a place in New York City, a city not known for cheap real estate. But she also has hints of darkness within her, and Barbet Schroder takes his blessed time in revealing just how deep it goes. Which is a fantastic thing: in doing so, he is able to establish a rapport between Hedra and her tenant, Allison Cooper, a girl who is Hedra's exact opposite -- sunny, outgoing, successful. And at the same time he is able to have Hedra's true face emerge from the waters in a way no one could see coming.
Allison and Hedra bond, and Schroder does it in his dreamy way, as if there were a Seventies-like innocence of two girls coming together and finding that they share so much in common. It's almost possible to hear a tune from that era in the early scenes of them together. However -- and there is always a however -- good times must come to an end, and Allison's dependence on Hedy (as Hedra calls herself, a faint echo of the "I call myself Phoebe" line from ALL ABOUT EVE, a film that also ends in the beginning of another predator/victim relationship about to take center stage) has to stop in order for her to move on. That, and taking a stance, because by the time Hedy comes down the stairs of the second-level of a beauty salon with her hair done exactly like Allison (in the film's most freakish scene), she is neck-deep in trouble. Because there are more surprises in store for her.
Bridget Fonda has said before she has a face like a stone. Which is quite interesting, because while that may be questionable, her poise, reminiscent of Grace Kelly or Tippi Hedren, is necessary for her character to work. As Allison, she exudes success, but not strength. She is the Hitchcock heroine ready to be raped by a monster while enamored of it. Such a monster is what Jennifer Jason Leigh creates with her rendition of Hedy. Hedy could be anyone, and had her back story not been a part of her present, it would have made her the more inexplicable -- the monster that is as opposed to the monster that became because of some trauma. Jason Leigh is a fantastic actress who becomes her role: she in effect could be this non-entity who is eager to please, and I'm sure everyone has met someone like her. She has a tricky part to play even though the script has her utter bad lines such as "Don't make me come get you!"
Now, as I mentioned earlier, the slasher portion of the movie is the one that brings the more problems. Yes, it was ultimately going to be a face-off -- American audiences wouldn't have had it any other way, and anyone who's seen the cerebral PERSONA knows that for a popular audience that wouldn't work. But it's made in a way that pushes the actors to a limit and much of the violence is done in an escalating way, not with sudden jerks and crashing music. Seeing Jason Leigh softly slapping Fonda across the face is more mentally jarring than the bullets her character pumps into Stephen Toblowsky as Fonda's character shrieks. And that the sequence, Fonda's and Jason Leigh's final face-off goes on and on while remaining somehow distant is another of the colder touches Schroder gives the film.
As a final mention, there has to be the inclusion of Schroder's more explicit nod to PERSONA. If he had been hinting all along at the previous film, he brings it out at the end with that shot of a photograph of both women's faces, torn down the middle, and stuck together. It's eerie, and reminiscent of that famous shot of the two actresses' faces, superimposed. In Allison's world, it's her way to bring closure to this tortured person.