Sunday, November 9, 2008

Single White Female v. Single White Female 2: The Psycho – A late night Lifetime Movie Network Showdown

This past Saturday I was supposed to attend a housewarming party at my friend Brencho’s new place. I got in my car and noticed that there was a warning light telling me my parking brake was on. This struck me as odd, seeing as I never use my parking brake. Turns out the light was actually warning me that my brakes didn’t work, because they didn’t. I pretty quickly figured out that my brakes essentially do nothing. After a very short, and somewhat terrifying, drive back home, I decided it would probably be best for everyone if I just stayed home.

Upon getting back to my apartment, it was 11pm on a Saturday and I had to decide what to do with myself. I had a couple of movies from Netflix I could watch. I could do some reading. Maybe spend the night having a few beers and listening to music. Or I could just go to bed at a reasonable time like a normal person. Then I found out that Single White Female was on the Lifetime Movie Network (which as you could probably guess, LMN is a channel that shows Lifetime movies 24 hours a day). I’d never seen Single White Female, and had the impression it was supposed to be a pretty good movie, or at the very least, campy, guilty fun. So Single White Female it was.

Bridget Fonda plays Allison, a beautiful, young, successful urbanite. When Allison discovers her fiancé cheated on her, she kicks him out of the apartment they share, and must take in a roommate in order to make rent. Enter Jennifer Jason Leigh as Hedra, an insecure and emotionally needy woman who by all appearances is the opposite of Allison. Naturally, Hedra becomes the roommate, and naturally, she turns out to be crazy.

I should confess, I missed the first 30-40 minutes of the movie (I think I was watching “The Soup” on E!). I missed all of the lead-in with Allison’s fiancé cheating on her, and Allison meeting Hedra (I checked the synopsis to catch up on what was going on, and subsequently stole it for the previous paragraph). By the time I came in, Allison and Hedra’s relationship had already developed into unhealthy and creepy codependence. Allison’s selfish ego was fed by Hedra’s lavish adoration. Hedra found confidence and a sense of self-importance by tying herself as close as possible to the seemingly have-it-all Allison.

Shortly thereafter, their relationship changes from unhealthy to dangerous. Hedra begins dressing in Allison’s clothes, and even cuts and dyes her hair to look like Allison’s (a bigger deal than it sounds, when you consider Allison had a pretty heinous super-short bob-cut that was dyed a ridiculously unnatural red). Eventually, Allison and her estranged fiancé begin to make amends, threatening to destroy her relationship with her new roommate. With her ego having been restored by Hedra’s attention and her reconciliation with her fiancé, Allison is about to kick Hedra to the curb, and resume her life as it was before. Hedra, seeing the object of her increasingly dangerous obsession pulling away from her, begins lashing out violently.

In what is probably the movie’s most famous scene, Hedra dons Allison’s clothes and perfume, and heads over to the fiancé’s apartment. She slips in and seduces the fiancé, who thinks it’s Allison until after they’ve had sex. After revealing herself post-coitus, Hedra explains that she knew the fiancé would cheat on Allison again, and has proven it by seducing him. As the ensuing argument escalates, Hedra stabs the fiancé in the eye with the heel of her stiletto. From there on out, it becomes a scramble by Hedra to hide everything while framing Allison for the murder.

The rest of the movie revolves around Allison trying to play off of Hedra’s obsession to escape her escalating rage, and Hedra trying to reconcile her love for Allison with her obsessive desire to destroy her. The second half of the movie becomes an emotional cat and mouse game between the dangerous and unstable Hedra and the frightened Allison.

Ultimately, the movie was pretty good. Not great, but a pretty solid thriller. Jennifer Jason Leigh as the emotionally unstable and needy Hedra was fantastic. Bridget Fonda was good as the vapid and selfish Allison. Director Barbet Schroeder lets the movie dip its toes into sensationalism, without letting it plunge headlong into ridiculousness. Overall, it ended up being better than I thought it would be.

Feeling pretty satisfied with Single White Female and the fact that it was now pushing 3am, I was about to go to bed when I saw that LMN was going to show Single White Female 2: The Psycho. Even the commercial made it look terrible, but I figured I could have another beer and watch a little before calling it a night. I ended up watching the entire thing and not getting to bed until 5am.

Single White Female 2: The Psycho immediately has a lot going against it. That subtitle should serve as a pretty big warning that the movie is going to suck in a very straight-to-DVD kind of way. Kristen Miller (“She Spies” – remember that show? No? Too bad, it was kind of awesome) takes over the Bridget Fonda role and Allison Lange (who has apparently been in nothing I’ve ever heard of) takes Jennifer Jason Leigh’s spot. The movie also starred Brooke Burns (who was on Baywatch, I think, but has since popped up periodically in a variety of places) and some actor whose name I don’t actually know (he was in one of the many “Saved By The Bell” rip-offs that ran on NBC’s Saturday mornings in the ‘90s and may have been on “Band of Brothers”). Not a very encouraging cast. By the end of the credit sequence, you can already tell you’re watching either a made-for-TV movie or, at best, a straight-to-DVD movie (after some terrible dubbing over of swear words later on, I figured it was the latter). Generally, it’s usually not a good sign when your sequel comes out a full 13 years after the original.

The plot is essentially the same as the original, just dumber. Holly is SWF2’s Allison. Tess is the new Hedra. Holly’s roommate sleeps with Holly’s boyfriend, prompting Holly to move out. She ends up moving in with Tess. Tess is sweet and insecure, Holly is confident and successful. Tess starts wearing Holly’s clothes and dyes her hair the same crazy red color. Holly gets back together with her boyfriend. Tess starts murdering people. Yadda-yadda-yadda.

Really, one of the only differences between the original and the sequel was that the sequel was terrible. Terribly acted, terribly written, terribly shot, edited, etc. and so on. Holly moves in with Tess, rather than the other way around. Holly’s roommate is the one who gets the stupid bob-cut this time around. There was some crap about Tess being into BDSM, but that really only seemed to come up as an excuse to shoot a scene in a sex club. Instead of something about a dead sister, Tess was crazy because of some botched suicide pact with her high school best friend. And the big climatic show-down between Holly and Tess was probably the least climatic ending I may have ever seen: Tess was about to stab some guy, Holly shoots her. The end.

Well, actually there was one more scene were Holly is in her new apartment with her boyfriend (unlike the original, he just gets almost killed, not full on killed), and she looks at a razor blade. Cue Tess’s face superimposed on the screen, delivering her speech about how death is the end to all pain. Holly looks thoughtfully (or what passes for Kristen Miller being thoughtful) at the razor, before smiling and gallivanting off with her boyfriend. (What the hell was the point of that?) Now, that’s the end.

After watching Single White Female and Single White Female 2: The Psycho back-to-back, I can confidently say, Single White Female was the better of the two, by far. That’s not saying much though, because SWF2 was embarrassingly bad. And after watching LMN for 4 hours straight, I can also confidently say that it was a night well spent. As bad as SWF2 was, it was totally worth staying up until 5am for. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of movie you would stay up watching on cable until 5am. Definitely worth it.

The movie starting at 5am was an actual Lifetime movie proper about a college professor who develops a dangerous obsession with a sexy young student. Looked pretty promising as far as Lifetime movies go (which are totally enjoyable in their own special way), but at that point I had to call it a night. Four hours of LMN? Awesome. Six hours of LMN? Maybe a little unnecessary.

1 comment:

Jeremiah said...

A thorough breakdown of a night spent watching back to back SWFs (and some Soup) along with a special She Spies mention. Fantastic.

They don't make them like SWF anymore. I mean, Lakeview Terrace was no Unlawful Entry, that's for sure.