Reel Estate

Reel Estate: Single White Female is more realistic than you thought

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When a movie or TV show is set in New York City—and if the people making it are savvy—real estate becomes part of the story itself. In Reel Estate, we look at some of the more memorable domiciles to grace the screen.

Even 23 years after its first came out—and intervening years that saw the advent of Craigslist, no less—Single White Female still might be the greatest cautionary roommate tale of all time. It's extreme, yes, but the escalation of the drama also covers a large swath of more typical roommate crimes. Before Hedy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) murders roommate Allison's (Bridget Fonda's) boyfriend and puppy then tries to kill her, she starts with (relative) baby steps of hellacious roommating: bringing a puppy into the apartment without permission, stealing Allie's clothes, weirdly getting a matching haircut, and hitting on her boyfriend. What makes this movie truly terrifying is its fast run down the slippery slope to psychotic homicidal mania. It could happen to any of us!

Of course, Allison's not without her faults, either. At the beginning of the movie, after realizing her boyfriend Sam (Steven Weber) has been cheating on her, Allie kicks him out of her giant Upper West Side apartment, and decides to seek out a roommate. Somehow, she's won a rent-stabilized or rent-controlled (it's referred to as both throughout the movie) apartment in the Ansonia, via a settlement when she split with her former business partner. (We've got a lot of follow up questions about that deal.) As such, she tells potential roommates that they can't be on the lease or really let the neighbors know they even live there, and takes Polaroids of all of them when they come to check the place out, which seems possibly illegal. 

Still, the apartment is pretty spectacular, if in need of some TLC (the kitchen sink doesn't seem to work at all, and her upstairs neighbor can hear pretty much everything she says through the vents):

After a string of crazy applicants, along comes Hedy, who seems sane and pleasant, if  a little socially awkward. She asks Allison if there's any chance she'll get back together with Sam—and boot her from the apartment—but Allie swears that won't happen. 

Naturally, Allie does get back together with Sam and wants the apartment all to herself, right around the time Hedy starts acting truly creepy, pretending to be Allie at clubs, and pushing their puppy out the window. (RIP Buddy.) Allie and Sam briefly consider giving up the apartment altogether to spare the awkwardness of having to kick out Hedy, or having to put up with her in general, but decide against it. (Again, it's a rent-controlled apartment in the Ansonia, where the cheapest rental these days is $2,500/month studio. Well worth dealing with a nut job roommate for a few extra weeks.)

From there, things get ugly:

Long story short, after realizing that Hedy has murdered Sam, Allie confronts her, and the two wind up in a battle royale in the building's (very sketchy) basement. After she eventually stabs Hedy to death, we see Allison back in her sunny, peaceful, apartment, all by herself.

It's an unfortunate turn of events, for sure, but if she had to come out of this whole mess with one thing intact—her sleazy boyfriend Sam or her claim to that giant, cheap apartment—she definitely got the better end of the deal.


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