Stars: Alexa PenaVega, Spencer Grammer, Kathryn Morris, Richard Riehle, Bryan Dechart | Written by Aaron Horwitz | Directed by Rob Margolies
Originally titled 2BR/1BA, then retitled Roommate Wanted for its US release, The Lodger - debuting here in the UK complete with cliched supermarket-friendly dark, brooding artwork which sells the film more as a straight up horror rather than the black comedy is really is (talk about mis-marketing) – is actually a loose remake of 2LDK, the 2003 Japanese “film” (it only ran just over an hour) directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi.
Interestingly, 2LDK was actually made as part of a filmmmaking challenge called the “Duel Project”, which saw Tsutsumi go head to head with director Ryuhei Kitamura to make a film under strict criteria: The script can contain no more than 2-3 characters and must be shot, on a low budget, in seven days and can only take place in one setting. The most important rule? At least one character in the film must die!
Which brings us to The Lodger… Starring Alexa PenaVega, she of the Spy Kids movies and bad-ass KillJoy in Machete Kills, the film tells the story of academic Janie (PenaVega) and her odd-couple roommate, wealthy socialite Dee (Grammer). To get her prestigious scholarship for graduate school, Janie is forced to find her own extra funding and comes across a fertility clinic that pays handsomely for donated eggs. However Janie and Dee are complete opposites, so much so that their unspoken tension eventually boils over after Dee decides to donate eggs herself, leading to a brutal showdown between the pair.
Let’s cut to the chase, The Lodger is like watching the bitchiest cat fight in history. Both Janie and Dee want to be the alpha dog in their “relationship”, and neither has any plans to back down, or ultimately to forgive and forget. It starts out pretty innocent enough, with underhanded behaviour meant to irritate one another – you know the type: catty comments, sneakily eating each others food, bitching about each others life choices… However where it goes once the pair REALLY let loose (about an hour into the film) is incredibly dark. Let’s just say animal lovers beware!
Starting out part way through our protagonists fight before flashing back to how it all began, The Lodger is actually set over the course of just one day. A day which starts out as bright and cheery as Janie and Dee’s fake attitudes and gets darker as they do. The passing of time and the day transitioning into night is a great, if heavy-handed, visual metaphor for the film as a whole: the moral of the story here is that the happy, sunny facades we often put on to face the day can, and do, become darkened by the actions of others… and ourselves.
Not as succesful a film as 2LDK, probably as the shock factor isn’t as high (and because- like all remakes – you can’t help but compare it to the original throughout), The Lodger is still a fantastic little black comedy that’s held together by a exceptional performance by Alexa PenaVega.
The Lodger is out now on DVD from Frontline Home Entertainment