and sometimes poetry

The Roommate (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner

In sixth grade when Miss Byers got pregnant our substitute was Mr. Coolidge. He was the first male, African-American teacher I’d ever had, and he would also be the last. Mr. C wore tinted John Lennon glasses, and would sit cross-legged on the front corner of Miss Byers’ desk (in jeans that were, in my opinion, too tight for a man) and jam with us about life. If you said something dynamite, Mr. C would nod his head as if digging it. And absolutely no jive was allowed. On the last day of Miss Byers’ maternity leave, Mr. C made a speech about what it meant to be a man. According to him, too many brothers out there were claiming they were doing good when they were just doing what they were supposed to be doing. I was too young to know not to include myself in the category of brother, so I listened. He said that sometimes brothers would be bragging to their own wives that a) they ain’t cheatin on em, b) they ain’t beatin on em, and c) they ain’t walking out on em. When he spoke again, he had been looking at us with his arms crossed for a long time. That ain’t good enough, young brothers.  Not doing wrong ain’t the same thing as doing right. And then he stretched his arm out and wagged a thick, ringed finger. Y’all be better than that. And for the rest of sixth grade, I tried.

Going into The Roommate with expectations lower than an Arab dictator’s approval rating—Hannah sprang it on me seconds before we pulled into the theater; I was so shocked I didn’t even have time to protest before I’d agreed out of pure adrenaline—I walked out of the theater feeling strangely gratified, a rarity in early February, which is like sloppy-twelfths in terms of months and the industry’s imaginative penetration. The obvious: Leighton Meester’s keister is hotter than summer on the sun, and the masturbation jokes one could make out of her last name alone, even briefly contemplated, are enough to grind one’s mind to a halt in something like a traffic jam of cheap, sardonic accuracy; her crazy-ass bitch routine is also convincing. Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights’ conflicted Christian cheerleader Lyla Garrity) also passes the good acting exam as the pious object of Meester’s psychotic obsession. Nothing was wrong with this movie but everything else. The story was stupid as dirt and didn’t have the decency to wander out of bounds. Christian E. Christiansen’s direction was sleepy. Billy Zane, a student-boning professor of fashion design, at one point says, “Who created our industry? Eve, when she first handed Adam the fig leaf. Class dismissed.” Also there is a social media subplot undermined by the fact that whenever anyone is on a computer it looks like they’re using Windows 3.1. But somehow I enjoyed it. He definitely wasn’t talking about Hollywood, but I don’t mind taking his lesson completely out of context in order to make hay of it here, so maybe Mr. Coolidge was wrong. Sometimes it is enough just to not get beat on, cheated on, abandoned. The Roomate will only clammily hold your hand, but if you go in expecting it to punch you in the face, that hand-holding feels like a quiet blowjob.

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2 responses

  1. Patrick McConnell

    Word

    February 5, 2011 at 1:33 pm

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Roommate (2011) | Review by Mark Leidner « Poets on Film -- Topsy.com

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