After discovering that her fiance is cheating on her, software developer Allie Jones (Bridget Fonda) decides to take in a roommate. She chooses mousy and soft-spoken Hedra (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and the two women quickly become friends. Hedra tells Allie that she should have had a twin sister, but her twin was stillborn. Maybe this is the reason she attaches to Allie so quickly, even buying a puppy for them to look after together. But when Allie’s latest business deal goes bad and Hedra responds by stepping in and scaring the client half to death, Allie sees a side to her roommate that she never suspected... and when she gets back together with her fiancé and their puppy suddenly falls off the balcony while only Hedra was at home, is it really an accident? There’s also the small but unsettling matter of how Hedra is secretly borrowing Allie’s clothes ,and how, when she surprises Allie by taking them both to a chic hair salon, Hedra’s new style and colour is an exact duplicate of Allie’s red-headed bob. Hedra’s found a new twin sister at last, whether Allie likes it or not… and she’ll kill anybody who tries to take Allie away.
Barbet Schroeder’s Single White Female arrived towards the end of the late 80s/early 90s erotic psychological thriller trend that began in 1987 with Adrian Lyne’s pot (or bunny?) boiler Fatal Attraction. Just as Fatal Attraction had scared audiences back into monogamy with its vengeful-woman-as-AIDS-metaphor, Single White Female tapped into a growing paranoia about strangers sharing our lives who may not be what we expect. It was based on John Lutz’s novel SWF Seeks Same, which itself was very loosely inspired by some deeply creepy real-life crime stories. For that reason, Single White Female should potentially have had more power than any of the other films that followed in Fatal Attraction's wake, but audiences had been spoiled by the time it was released in summer 1992. After all, this was the same year that had already given us the memorably nasty The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and the sex-noir blockbuster Basic Instinct. Somehow, the problems of a lone young woman dealing with an unbalanced copycat roommate just seemed passé – and that’s a shame, because Single White Female has a lot to recommend it.
Unfortunately, Umbrella’s Blu-ray is unlikely to find the film an enthusiastic new audience. The image is only a minor step up from Single White Female’s two decades old DVD incarnation, and we get none of the special features that Shout! Factory have given viewers on their almost simultaneously released US edition. The Shout! offering seems to be stronger in the image and picture/ratio departments too. It’s a shame that UK consumers have got shafted again, especially considering Single White Female is a movie that deserves some critical re-evaluation. If you’ve got a multi-region player and a hankering to add this disc to your collection, we know which version we’d recommend. 9/10 for the film (Fonda and Jason Leigh are fab), 5/10 for the disc.
SINGLE WHITE FEMALE / CERT: M (AUS) / DIRECTOR: BARBET SCHROEDER / SCREENPLAY: DON ROOS / STARRING: BRIDGET FONDA, JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, STEVEN WEBER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW