I’m a big Jennifer Jason Leigh fan. The Hateful Eight is one of the best films ever made and she gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen her in a couple other films and have always been so impressed at her ability to completely embody her character. I’ve always been aware of the film she did with Bridget Fonda, Single White Female, but had never taken the time to sit down and watch it. Having seen it, I have some thoughts…
This is one of those stalker thrillers that slowly escalates and gets crazier and crazier. We’ve all seen these types of films where the antagonist is this creepy obsessive person who’ll stop at nothing until they get this person. I was hoping this iteration of that would have some inventive ideas to throw into this formula… unfortunately they don’t have a whole lot to add. What really keeps this film afloat for the most part is the cast. Fonda and Leigh are talented actors and their performances are grounded in their characters. It really is a shame that the script is rather flat and comes up short on ideas. This film is also an example of a script that starts some interesting things but cuts them off quickly, which is exceedingly frustrating.
One of the plot devices that is wasted is a scene where Fonda’s character follows Leigh’s character to an underground night club. When Fonda enters the club, it becomes clear that this is a BDSM club where people “play” with one another. But it’s never really explained why Leigh goes to this place and it doesn’t inform her character at all which seems like a huge waste of screen time to me and a waste of what could be a very interesting idea. I love it when films go beyond what you typically see in the mainstream and give us details about characters that are genuinely interesting. The writers could have for example given Leigh’s character an affinity for sexual violence… which was discovered by Fonda at the club. All of this being seen at this secretive nightclub could have provided a window into this individual. Maybe they could have given Leigh a sexual attraction to Fonda that leads to violence…. just anything but the usual thriller tropes that are so predictable. So many things that end up happening in this film are so easily predictable and that’s disappointing given the talent involved.
I won’t give away specific things that happens along the way but I don’t think anyone who’s seen at least a few thrillers would have any trouble guessing what happens next here. Not only is the predictability a problem but the pacing is off as well. This film is too long and it drags its feet for a length of time. If the film had more original ideas then maybe this would have been fine but as it stands, it goes on for too long.
Among all the bland plot choices, there is good acting from the two leads and I will say the costume design is nicely put together. Yes it’s very early 90s of course but they use hairstyle and clothing to their advantage here. Peter Weber has a nice scene with Leigh in which things get pretty intense, I do think that scene was overall effective. I won’t say exactly what happens but that scene uses sexuality and manipulation in a creepy way that other scenes do not. There’s some talk about Leigh’s background and why she is the way she is but in my opinion they could’ve spent some of the time where they dragged their feet delving further into her history and making it more shocking and creepy.
Single White Female is a mediocre stalker thriller that does have talented female leads but doesn’t properly support those leads with a well written script. I’d skip this one and go for one of the better entries in this genre.