SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, from director Barbet Schroeder (Reversal of Fortune, Barfly), and is a ‘90s cult classic which begs the question, do we ever really know someone? The film stars Bridget Fonda (Lake Placid, Jackie Brown), Jennifer Jason Leigh (White Boy Rick, The Hateful Eight), Steven Weber (Stephen King’s The Shining, 13 Reasons Why), and Peter Friedman (Succession, The Seventh Sign).
After finding out her fiance Sam Rawson (Steven Weber) has been unfaithful, Allison Jones (Fonda) kicks him out of her spacious apartment and begins to search for a new roommate. When she meets the introverted Hedra (Leigh), Allison believes she’s met the perfect roommate and quickly offers her a room to rent. As their friendship begins to blossom, Allison begins to notice odd behavior from Hedra which mimics her own. As Allison circumvents a relationship with her boyfriend, Hedra’s behavior becomes increasingly hostile, to the point where Allison begins to suspect that something isn’t right with Hedra. The more she uncovers, the more horrifying the truth is, resulting in the ultimate showdown leaving neither one unscathed.
I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever seen SINGLE WHITE FEMALE one other time (outside of recently) but even so, the film has always had a lasting impression on me as well as pop culture. Revisiting the film was something that I was looking forward to, and though I knew it most likely didn’t age gracefully, I didn’t care. SINGLE WHITE FEMALE is terrifying in the sense that it’s something that can happen to any of us at any time. What makes this film work so well, to the point where it could be believable, is the chemistry between Allison and Hedra. Before Hedra ends up showing her dark side, the two seem to have a genuine friendship. However, what seems innocent at first proves to be beneficial for Hedra as she uses her shyness as a way to disarm Allison. As the film progresses, we find out just how manipulative Hedra truly is, resulting in a series of events that have devastating consequences on Allison.
What did irk me, having now revisited the film, was the incessant use of sex and nudity in a film that didn’t really need it. I’m no prude by any stretch but the amount of times that our female characters are shown nude or scantily clad was quite often. I found that to be rather interesting considering this is a film that actually features a prominent female antagonist in a genre that rarely has them. Some may argue that it was because Hedra was trying to seduce Sam away from Allison, but I don’t believe that to be true. I think the focus of the director had more to do with the male gaze than anything else, which is a shame as it took away from some of the incredible performances by both Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Aside from my issues of the continuous use of nudity, the film’s themes surrounding trust, loyalty, and power ring very clear. As Allison is dealing with the notion that there is something incredibly off with her roommate, she also has to deal with the confrontation of both her ex-boyfriend and boss. No matter how many times Allison tells her ex Steve that she doesn’t want to see him, he keeps returning. No matter how many times Allison dodges her boss’ (played by Stephen Tobolowsky) advances, he still tries to rape her. It’s truly unsettling to watch and is a clear reminder that even when women say no, there are some men who thrive off of power and control towards women. In other words, not only is the thought of someone stealing your identity scary enough, but add on another layer which incorporate toxic male behavior and the horrors are overwhelming.
I think it goes without saying that SINGLE WHITE FEMALE is always going to be a cult classic. Revisiting this film as a 35-year-old has definitely opened my eyes to how things were presented and perceived in 1992. There are definitely some problematic areas and questionable moments within the film, but I do believe the good outweighs the bad. Allison is a survivor and she fights tooth and nail, against all odds, to make it out of this hell she finds herself in. With all that said, it’s hard not to root for Allison and it’s hard not to love to hate Hedra as both actresses put on one hell of a show for audiences to enjoy. With the film having just been released on Blu-ray from Shout Factory, fans of the film will eat up all the special features that it offers such as audio commentary and interviews with some of the cast. If you are looking for a roommate, remember to be careful with who you choose, and make sure to visit ShoutFactory.com to purchase your copy of SINGLE WHITE FEMALE.