Each week, I will revisit films I loved as a lad, most of them inappropriate given my tender age at the time, and decide if they still pass muster. This is part 2 of 3 in my special Crazy Bitches edition.  Oh and, much like my adolescent self, I am going to spoil the hell out of every movie I revisit, so be warned.



Single White Female (August 14, 1992)

The Joey Gist
:  I saw this opening night with my cousin Christian at the Headquarters 10 Theater in Morristown, New Jersey. We tricked his unsuspecting mother–instantly mortified by how freely the breasts, BJ’s, beaver shots, bondage, and bed-humping flowed in this film–into taking us (she really wanted to take us to see Hook or something stupid like that, but we refused).  We were both 10 years old.

The Film’s Gist: After breaking up with her cheating live-in boyfriend, Allie Jones (Bridget Fonda in her well-earned and all too brief heyday) places an ad for a roommate to share her very large apartment in a Gothic, Rosemary’s Baby-esque Upper West Side building. She almost settles on a perky Helen Hunt type (Rene Estevez in a tiny “cameo,” though I think you need to be a touch more famous for the “cameo” title–what the hell, let’s give it to her anyway) but then Hedy Carlson (Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is a dead ringer for Ally Sheedy in Breakfast Club, especially for the early scenes) walks in and things change.  For the worse.  Oh, for the much, much, much worse.  Hedy–who is later revealed to be the surviving half of a twin who died in a swimming accident–develops an unhealthy fixation on Allie.  Hedy’s true colors show when Allie gets back together with philandering Sam (Steven Weber) and Hedy starts doing all sorts of crazy things–like, adopting a puppy and then letting it fall out of a window (she finds a way to blame Sam’s poor window-fixing skills), cutting and dying her hair exactly like Allie’s, buying similar clothing, going to BDSM clubs and referring to herself by Allie’s name, and eventually sneaking into a sleeping Sam’s hotel room, fellating him against his will, and when he threatens to tell Allie, shoving her stiletto into his eyeball.  The film results in a lengthy, downright exhausting finale that remains one of my favorites to date.

What I Thought Then:  I loved Bridget Fonda. I really did.  I still do.  I have a dog named Bridget.  Bridget Fonda.  Irrational love of fair skinned, distinctly 90’s actresses aside (we’ll address this issue with Alicia Silverstone, Elisabeth Shue, and Demi (Demmy era, not Duh-mee) Moore as the weeks progress, don’t worry), once this film hit HBO Saturday night, I recorded it on VHS (on a tape with Bram Stoker’s Dracula–jealous?) and it became a repeat staple.  After school, early Sunday mornings when no one was awake.  I was about as obsessed with this movie as Hedy was with Allie.  But why?  Well, Hedy was bat shit crazy.  And it’s always fun to watch people who are bat shit crazy. And, of course, as was always the “problem” with me, I always found some strange way to relate to the villain.  Hedy’s twin sister died!  It left a hole in her heart!  A big one!  So big she needs to force another woman at gunpoint to fill the slot!  That’s understandable, no?  I was also really, really preoccupied–and I guess I still am–with how the villains in these films got finished off by the protagonists.  I was especially fond of SWF‘s method of Allie sticking a piece of her shirt in a closet door, fooling Hedy into thinking she’s inside and then, bam! lowering herself upside down from the ceiling and jamming her right in the kidney with a rusty screwdriver!  Yeah, I never figured out the logistics of it either, but it’s pretty jolting, especially on the heels of crazy Hedy sobbing “Allie, please!  I’m scaaaaared!”  The perfect mix of gut-wrenchingly sad and “Aww shit, kill that haircut biting, boyfriend killing, bed humping freak.”

What’s Still Good: Pretty much everything I loved then still applies, but objectively, it’s just a really solid film.  Barbet (Reversal of Fortune) Schroeder is no joke.  Also, as a New Yorker, it’s kind of awesome to think about this film as a 1992 time capsule of the city–the streets were a bit grittier, everything a bit more Gothic, especially that amazing echoey quiet building.  The film’s chaotic final act occurs during the daytime, when most people are at work, and Allie and Hedy’s insane, violent fighting can’t be heard by anyone anyway. It adds a terrific, realistic element that still holds up as well as it did on my first 65 viewings.  The performances are as stellar as I recalled, too, most notably from Jennifer Jason Leigh, who was sort of born to play roles like this, I think: mumbly, pretty but shifty, like she’s always got an ulterior motive or a shiv in her purse. The script is tight, especially impressive because John Lutz’s book that the film is based on (I was also into collecting the books of movies I loved then–either the originals or, as I preferred, the specially written move tie-in editions) is really, really strange, has about 25 more characters, is mostly told from Hedy’s POV, and was pretty unfilmable. 

What’s Not So Good:  As I mentioned earlier, this is a film with a great finale buuuuut the finale pretty much accounts for the last 45 minutes.  It’s a bit exhausting, and you feel led to false endings a few times, which always frustrates me.  A minor complaint though.  The real insult here is the ridiculous over-acting by one Stephen Tobolowsky (the Bing! guy in Groundhog Day). He plays a business associate of Allie’s who basically tries to force her into sex (she hits him in the balls at just the right moment) and then, by some enormously complex use of early e-mailing (the laptop is like a lunchbox, the modem wire like one of those fat soft peel-apart Twizzlers, and the dial-up takes quite a while), Allie later calls on him to help save her from Hedy, he arrives, throws Hedy like a rag doll, then gets his head blown off.  That particular scene is thrilling, but Mr. Tobolowsky’s presence in the movie always felt a bit off, like sticking someone from Cheers into Dangerous Liaisons (no idea which corner of my ass I pulled that comparison out of, but I think you catch my drift). Also, the jury’s still out on the infamous stiletto in the eyeball–it’s loaded with feminist subtext, which is awesome, but it’s still someone dying because of a stiletto to the face.  The bit of gore on the heel under the bathroom sink is still pretty cringe inducing too (Allie somehow puts 2 and 2 together when she sees it and hears of Sam’s death on the news).  Oh, there’s also the obligatory gay neighbor with the fat tabby cat who can just tell from the get go that Hedy is out of her mind but isn’t listened to.  He’s kind of a waste.  But I guess I should mention that he exists, thereby righting that wrong.

The Current Gist: This is just a quality movie any way you dice it. Or puncture it.  With a stiletto.  8.5/10