Single White Female [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (18th December 2018).
The Film

1992 was a banner year for films featuring a deranged female lead, with “Basic Instinct”, “Poison Ivy”, “Hand that Rocks the Cradle” and director Barbet Shroeder’s “Single White Female” all hitting multiplexes within months of each other. I remember catching most of these in theaters or on VHS – except for “Basic Instinct”, which I didn’t see until years later because it seemed too adult, if that makes sense – and the stories held plenty of appeal for an 11-year-old boy. Psychologically tense. Swift violence. Obsession. Passion. Nudity. These are films that are able to tap into real fears, such as letting a stranger who seems “normal” into your life only to learn they are completely unhinged. You imagine leaving this person with your kids, or your partner, or your pet – what could a person with a misaligned moral compass do to destroy everything you have? In “Single White Female” the answer is assimilation, with a newfound roommate attempting to attain the life of her unsuspecting host. The film disturbed me all those years ago but this isn’t a case where childhood terror doesn’t hold up – as an adult, aspects of the story are even more frightening than before.

After catching her boyfriend Sam (Steven Weber) cheating, Allie (Bridget Fonda) kicks him out of their shared apartment – which is friggin’ gargantuan by NYC standards – and begins her search for a new roommate. After finding a few potential candidates Allie soon meets Hedra (Jennifer Jason Leigh, nicknamed “Hedy”) and an immediate connection is formed like the two were long lost friends. Hedy quickly integrates herself into Annie’s life, enjoying the requisite “girl time” and deepening their bond by discussing closely held feelings. Unbeknownst to Annie, Hedy takes it upon herself to delete voicemails from a repentant Sam looking to gain entrance back into Allie’s life; she’s a bit too protective of her newfound friend. Once Sam does finally get to Allie, and successfully wins her back, Hedy’s true nature is revealed and Allie’s former bestie becomes her worstie.

Shroeder deftly builds up these characters into three-dimensional people, examining the strengths and weaknesses of both Allie and Hedy, traits that are later exploited in the film when shit hits the fan. Allie is shown to be softer and more trusting, though she has claws available when absolutely required. Hedy, meanwhile, puts on an innocent act that belies her true intentions that are not entirely clear, something that makes her character all the more chilling. The film posits there may be no lengths to which she won’t go in order to get what she wants; even murder is merely a means to achieve her end. I mean – spoiler alert – Hedy and Allie’s new puppy is mysteriously killed after a fall from their apartment and it is blindingly clear Hedy was behind it. And the reason for offing an innocent pooch? It liked Allie more.

Hedy and Allie’s relationship ebbs and flows until reaching a crescendo, which is the point when Hedy gets a makeover to look exactly like Allie – mushroom hairdo and all. Allie is clearly disturbed by Hedy’s actions but her doppelganger brushes off her concerns, completely disregarding the feelings of the person she claims to hold so dear. “Single White Female” is a case study in BPD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and although Hedy’s actions are unquestionably abhorrent she is a sympathetic villain because nobody can control his or her own brain chemistry. She was involuntarily made a monster. At times her lack of social niceties are advantageous for Allie, such as when Hedy takes on a sleazeball client (played perfectly by Stephen Tobolowsky), but once the tables are turned Allie learns the depth of Hedy’s derangement. Unlike many other tales of jilted females produced during this period, there is no male lead waiting for the opportune moment to knock out our loony leading lady so the audience can call it a day. Allie has to contend with half-a-deck-of-cards Hedy and she isn’t quite the physical match, forcing her to rely on wits during a tense cat-and-mouse climax.

One aspect of this film I enjoy is the jumble of feelings and emotions constantly present, with characters often shown in various states of vulnerability. Allie is dejected following her breakup with Sam. Hedy is a lonely soul who only wants a partner to be hers and hers alone. Sam is groveling, begging Allie to take him back. Even Graham (Peter Friedman), Allie’s neighbor, a man who tries to be her rock, is a loner living with his cat who has few prospects for love. People make irrational decisions in these states and by exposing these weaknesses it makes certain choices more palatable.

Video

Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the 1080p 24/fps image mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression, the picture is strong overall with only a few minor issues. The opening flashback scenes are awfully grainy but past that point film grain is smoothed out for the remainder of the presentation to look filmic and lively. The image is moderately soft at times but close-ups are handsomely detailed and definition is good. The cinematography evokes a smoky, sultry mood with lots of filtered lighting and blue gels used during the nighttime scenes in Allie’s apartment. The image is far better than the old Columbia DVD and makes for an impressive leap into the HD field.

Audio

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track is a simple, direct, no-frills affair with clean dialogue, balanced levels, and another exemplary score from the legendary Howard Shore. The soundtrack is supportive and complementary to the characters and their motivations while resisting the urge to become too bombastic. Optional subtitles are included in English only.

Extras

There is an audio commentary available, featuring director Barbet Shroeder, editor Lee Percy, and associate producer Susan Hoffman.

“Interview with Director Barbet Shroederfeaturette (1080p) runs for 27 minutes and 20 seconds, with the helmer discussing aspects of the production, such as the project’s genesis, shooting, releasing, and legacy.

“Interview with Actor Peter Friedmanfeaturette (1080p) runs for 7 minutes and 17 seconds, the actor talks about his portrayal of Allie’s neighbor and the atmosphere working on set.

“Interview with Actor Steven Weberfeaturette (1080p) runs for 19 minutes and 41 seconds, the screen veteran talks about his approach to playing a slightly sleazy character and what it was like working against the dynamic of two leading ladies.

“Interview with Screenwriter Don Roosfeaturette (1080p) runs for 25 minutes and 41 seconds, the scribe discusses adapting John Lutz’s novel for the silver screen, as well as what it was like working with the creative team during production.

A theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 2 minutes and 4 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

Overall

Still just as tense and taut as it was upon release, “Single White Female” taps into some primal fears while delivering a picture stocked with developed characters and nuanced performances. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray is overdue and well worth picking up.

The Film: A- Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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