Review: SINGLE WHITE FEMALE (1992) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 20 January 2013


RATING: 3.5/5

Along with the popular "tenant-from-hell" psychological thriller subgenre that populated the early 1990s including PACIFIC HEIGHTS (1990) and THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE (1992), Barbet Schroeder's SINGLE WHITE FEMALE sits equally well as among the best of its kind.
Bridget Fonda plays Alison Jones, a New York-based software designer who has just created a computer package that will revolutionize the fashion world and she is about to strike a deal with a potential client named Mitchell Meyerson (Stephen Tobolowsky). She also lives a happy life with her fiance Sam Rawson (Steven Weber). For a while there, everything looks to be right on track until she discovers Sam is sleeping with his ex-wife. She dumps him and immediately evicted him out of her rented apartment she resided on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Soon she realizes she need to find a roommate in order to hold on to her apartment. After placing an ad and interviews several unsuitable candidates, she finally settles down for a shy-looking Hedra Carlson (Jennifer Jason Leigh). She is very assured that Hedra would be an ideal roommate she's been looking for all this while. It doesn't take long before they become good friends, as Hedra is always on Alison's side in helping her getting over her personal crisis. Everything looks fine between the two of them, until Sam appears again to work his way into Alison's life. From there, Hedra begins to feel very jealous when she discovers Alison slowly accepting Sam back, and determines to ruin the moment. It turns out to be that Hedra has a murky past with a borderline psychotic behavior.

While the premise might looks formulaic, Don Roos' layered screenplay cleverly digs deeper beyond its genre convention with a healthy dose of psychological subtext. The movie mostly works because of its thought-provoking, two-person character studies between Alison and Hedra. Bridget Fonda gives one of her best performances to date as the emotionally-conflicted Alison who tries to balance her life between work and personal, only to be constantly threatened by the increasingly unstable Hedra entering into her already messed-up life. Speaking of Hedra, Jennifer Jason Leigh excels in her psychotic role that deserved to earn a distinction as one of the most memorable female villains of the '90s.

Barbet Schroeder's direction evokes a lot of Hitchcockian-style of suspenseful moments, and he manages to deliver them with equal flair. Not only that, he is also daring enough to push the envelope in term of its lesbian undertone for a mainstream feature.

Despite all the good stuff, particularly for the terrific first half, the movie grows uneven once the second half kicks in with the typical slasher genre. Several flaws aside, SINGLE WHITE FEMALE remains one of the must-watch psychological thrillers of the '90s. A box office smash during the summer season, grossing at a respectable $48 million.

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