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Monday 16 March 2015

Burl reviews Single White Female! (1992)

Ha ha and boogaloo bread, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here with another movie review, and this one comes to us from the summer of 1992! I’m not sure what I was doing in the summer of 1992, but I remember what the movies were doing: showing us example after example of how people we should be able to trust – nannies, roommates, stepdaughters, cops – are actually kill maniacs likely to stop at nothing to acquire whatever it is their psychological deficiency demands they have! Ha ha, this important message was delivered that year in pictures like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Poison Ivy, Unlawful Entry and this movie, Single White Female!
Now, I never cared much for this genre, and, outside of its 1987 godfather, Fatal Attraction, I never saw any examples of same in the theatre, or even on video! But because I’ve always enjoyed the work of Barbet Schroeder, who directed this (as well as Barfly, More and, crucially, La Maitresse), and because the VHS was just sitting around in my basement, I recently thought I’d give it a shot! Ha ha, and why the heck not!
Well, we all know the story, I guess! Allie, a young lady, whose job appears to be designing some kind of fashion software, has a contretemps with her gentleman friend and finds herself in need of a roommate! She advertises for same and soon takes on the mousy Hedra! But as Allie, contrary to her promises, creeps towards a rapprochement with her faithless swain, Hedra, who is secretly cuckoo-bananas, objects to being pushed aside and told to move out! Ha ha, I think she has a quite reasonable grievance, myself!
Well, soon an adorable puppy takes a header out a twelfth-story window! Ha ha, he seems to have been brought on the scene for just this purpose, both within the story and for the writer’s own narrative needs! (This might have been the catalyst for my friend Sean’s vow to boycott any movie where they needlessly kill a dog!) Soon there are more bodies falling to the floor, but only a few of them, for this would style itself no slasher movie, despite its later being labeled one in many critical notices! (One of the bodies even gets up later to tell the tale!)
But, while silly and a little mean to puppies, Single White Female has nice photography from Suspiria cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, and fine performances from the leading ladies, Bridget Fonda from Frankenstein Unbound and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is probably best known for her role in Grandview U.S.A.! We also get more nuance than is usual: as I mentioned, Hedra can’t be blamed for complaining about Allie’s jerkish behavior, and her character is easy to pity, even after she starts delivering high-heel pokings to the eye and such! The tables are turned in the stalking scenes as well, and, as in Death Proof, it is the crazy maniac who gets scared and pleading!
Now, Single White Female is hardly the greatest thing since French toast! It may have the virtues already mentioned, it may boast an effective suspense moment or two, it may feature a Ken "It Came From Beneath the Sea" Tobey cameo, and it may provide a shoe in the eye! But it’s still just another one of those cuckoo-in-the-nest pictures, as silly as that implies, and overlong in the bargain! By garr, this cycle of pictures seem very much of their era – early stirrings of pre-millennial anxiety or something, maybe! Ha ha! Anyway, they never did much for me, so I’m giving Single White Female one and a half screwdrivers on a chain!

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