If anyone loves a trend, its Hollywood. Chasing hard on a pack started byearly 90s smashes such as Basic Instinct, and The Hand That Rocks The Table et al, was Single White Female, providing conclusive proof (like it's needed) that that Women From Hell were in back then. Barbet Schroeder followed up his vintage work on Reversal Of Fortune with this impassively calculated attempt to merge Hitchcockian thrills with Bergman-type mind games.
After booting out her philandering beau, twentysomething Allie (Fonda, occasionally convincing), cheery and confident but afraid of being alone, advertises for a flatmate, picking sweet, dowdy and dishevelled Hedy (Leigh, occasionally chilling) as her seemingly unthreatening ideal. Fashion design software expert Allie - who always manages to look fresh out of a Vogue fashion spread, and possesses a cavernous Upper West Side apartment, despite having just the one client in the Rolodex - and bookstore minion Hedy go through a honeymoon period of nicely observed sisterly bonding rituals, but when the clingy Hedy starts cloning herself after Allie, it's abundantly clear she's after more than just fashion tips.
Yet when repentant boyfriend Sam (Weber) pops up again, the bitterly malevolent Hedy sets out to frame him as a killer of fluffy puppies and a faithless clod, with Schroeder lurching schizophrenically into yuppie nightmare mode as the besieged fashion-conscious yuppette races against time to get the wacko out of her life before she runs out of warm-blooded mammals to ice.
What Schroeder lacks in character development - both Fonda and Leigh battle valiantly to beef up their thinly written roles - he more than makes up for in mood and atmosphere, honing the creepy grandeur of the ominous, shadowy Manhattan apartment building with all the pinpoint perfection, filtered light and grainy texture of a man who knows his Roman Polanski. Although he laces it with several macabre and unsettling touches, the supremely talented Schroeder merely seems to be flexing his filmmaking muscles here, biding his time until he finds something he can really sink his teeth into.