Not only did Single White Female spawn a number of awful haircuts, it also helped cement the identity theft thriller with a tale of a roommate slowly transforming herself into the person she wishes she could be. Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh star as the two roommates – one an up-and-coming software engineer for fashion companies who’s nearly ready to start her married life, the other a troubled young woman who finds herself mostly alone, in part because of her own behavior. Director Barbet Schroeder fashions psychological tension out of this rather simple premise, resulting in a disturbing look at unchecked mental illness.
One of the things that sticks out as being the most effective in Single White Female is the brazenness of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character Hedy. Schroeder and screenplay writer Don Roos constantly build her actions to a point where it seems impossible she can go any further off the rails. That development comes from slow incremental changes in her actions, and it’s due to Leigh’s performance that it works so well. At first, Hedy’s just somewhat off-kilter – she’s a loner, she’s not particularly interesting, and she doesn’t have many social skills. But the transformation begins to take shape through subtleties until finally Hedy is wearing the same outfits and hair as her roommate Allison, or responding to the name Allie in bars. The slow progression moves from laughably awkward to chilling, and that nuance makes the psychology of Single White Female stand out from similar films.
But Roos is also due credit for taking a close look at each of the women in detail. It’s clear that Allie has issues of her own; she’s gruff, often stressed, and potentially a bit too weak and naive at the start of the film. Fonda also shines in her role, starting out guarded and allowing her walls to drop as she gets to know Hedy before realizing she probably made a mistake. And when getting both Fonda and Leigh in the same scene, Single White Female takes off: it’s cringe-inducing at some moments, suspenseful in others, and Schroeder ensures that this roller coaster ride constantly resets direction.
Single White Female is probably the best film in the roommate sub-sub-genre of thrillers, and it captures the spirit of what makes getting to know someone new a potentially terrifying task. Schroeder focuses on trust throughout, and at the end of the film, the viewer is left wondering if one can ever truly know another person. With the constant barrage of liars within the film – including a slick Steven Weber and Stephen Tobolowsky in an infuriating role – Single White Female still has audiences questioning those sitting next to them during the movie, and it’s a delightful popcorn flick that keeps going and going during its conclusion.
Scream Factory has given Single White Female a new Blu-ray release that does not get the Collector’s Edition treatment. That’s probably because there’s no new transfer on this release, with Scream opting to use an older HD master. While the image quality is serviceable, I think this is one release that could have used a new scan – the picture can be quite soft at times, especially with all of the ambient lighting Schroeder uses throughout. The Blu-ray still looks good but I think Single White Female could look better, and it seems like a missed opportunity for at least a new 2k scan. Audio is presented in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, and it sounds quite good throughout. English subtitles are also available.
While this Blu-ray doesn’t feature a new transfer, it makes up for it with quite a few new extra features. An audio commentary with director Barbet Schroeder, associate producer Susan Hoffman, and editor Lee Percy gives some nice insight into the film itself. Then Schroeder gives a 27-minute interview about the making of the film, his inspirations, and other info about his work. Steven Weber gives a 19-minute interview about his time on Single White Female working with Leigh and Fonda; and Peter Friedman talks for about 7 minutes, including an amusing anecdote about his allergies to cats and being forced to sit in a bathtub with one during his scenes. Finally, screenwriter Don Roos gives another lengthy interview, over 20 minutes, about adapting the original novel into a film. Also included is a theatrical trailer.
Interestingly, this release includes more new features than some of Scream’s more recent Collector’s Edition output, making it a good disc to pick up for those truly interested in knowing more about Single White Female or owning the film for the first time. And for those who want extras, they’ll want to pick this Blu-ray up over Umbrella Entertainment’s featurette-less release.