Single White Female is a 1992 thriller about a New York woman (Bridget Fonda) whose new flatmate (Jennifer Jason Leigh) turns out to be the roommate from hell. And I don’t mean she steals her mustard.
Although the movie deals in the kind of tropes familiar to anyone who’s seen The King of Comedy or anything starring Michael Douglas, it still works for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s very well made, with tense direction by Barbet Schroeder and rich music by Howard Shore. Secondly, there are great performances from Fonda, Leigh and Movie Helper Stephen Tobolowsky, recognisable from Memento, Groundhog Day, Thelma & Louise and Groundhog Day.
Perhaps the film’s greatest strength is that we genuinely feel for Leigh’s character (a credit to her performance), even as she turns from sweetie to psycho. She’s actually a more sympathetic character than Fonda’s condescending little-miss-perfect, with her “I think you look very comfortable” attitude and silver trenchcoat, which belongs on the Great Raincoats of Horror rail, alongside those from Dressed to Kill and Don’t Look Now.
The tension builds along with Leigh’s resentment, as the full extent of her psychosis grows gradually and frighteningly clear. First she buys a dog (uh-oh), then she restyles herself exactly like her roommate, then she Vertigoes completely crazy. With its high-concept and high-heels, this is a pulpy, entertaining Hitchcockian slasher. Think of it as 2 Broke Girls as directed by Brian De Palma.