1992 seems like such a long time ago, and “Single White Female” is one of the more influential thrillers to come out of a decade filled with them. While the eighties had “Fatal Attraction,” the nineties had what is one of the more interesting films that inspired a number of copycats in the latter years. Director Barbet Schroeder’s drama thriller is by no means a masterpiece, but it’s a solid film that takes a few pages from “Fatal Attraction” while offering a villain that’s much more psychologically broken.
Bridget Fonda plays Allison Jones, a designer and computer technician who has suffered a vicious break up with her cheating fiancé Sam (Steven Weber). Hoping to bounce back, she goes on the hunt for a roommate, and meets Hedra (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Hedra is a seemingly meek and friendly enough young girl who forms a quick bond with Allison. But as Allison reconciles with Sam, Hedra gradually grows aggressive, and incredibly jealous of their relationship. Soon she begins looking for ways to sabotage their relationship, all of which include infidelity and murder. As Allison realizes what Hedra is up to, it might be too late to stop her conniving plans.
As future copycats would prove, “Single White Female” is schlock, but it’s good schlock. It’s elevated by the strong performances by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bridget Fonda, both of whom present opposite spectrums of madness and fury. Allison is an intriguing character wholly dependent on the male persona for comfort and support, and gains a sense of empowerment from Hedra, whether she realizes it or not. In the final scene when the narrative has closed, Allison isn’t so much traumatized or angry at Hedra, so much as forgiving and sympathetic. For better and for worse, Hedra’s psychological torture and destruction of her life, helps Allison gain a sense of independence, and we can literally watch her character go from point A to point B over the course of the film.
Schroeder turns the New York apartment owned by Allison in to something of a character all its own where the key turning points occurs, from a forced sex scene, to the murder of a poor animal. Hedra is a much more risqué version of Allison whose sense of jealousy and isolation is unnerving and that’s thanks to Jennifer Jason Leigh, whose performance is absolutely stellar. When Allison begins to notice Hedra owns the same clothing, and even begins to wear her hair like her, the disturbing notion becomes less about her acting like Allison, and more like the idea that perhaps she can be a better Allison. When they do battle, it’s all territorial, and it unfolds well within the urban sprawl of New York.
“Single White Female” is a solid psychological thriller, despite its warts and clumsy climax (why introduce the screwdriver if you’re going to do nothing with it?), and has barely shown its wrinkles since creating a practically new sub-genre since 1992.
The Collector’s Edition features an audio commentary with director Barbet Schroeder, Editor Lee Percy and Associate Producer Susan Hoffman. There’s a twenty seven minute interview with director Barbet Schroeder who discusses his work before the film, and how he liked doing his first studio movie. There’s an interview with actor Peter Friedman, who explains how he got the role, his allergy to cats, working with one, and his relationship with the cast. There’s a nineteen minute interview with Steven Weber, who discusses working on the film, how it related to his work on “Wings” and his working with director Dario Argento. There’s an interview with screenwriter Don Ross, who discusses his different adaptation of the book, how he adapted the book, what he chose to include, and how to take what worked and use it for the movie. Finally there’s the original theatrical trailer.