Single White Female
|Single White Female|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Barbet Schroeder|
|Produced by||Barbet Schroeder|
|Screenplay by||Don Roos|
|Based on||SWF Seeks Same|
by John Lutz
|Music by||Howard Shore|
|Edited by||Lee Percy|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$84 million|
Single White Female is a 1992 American psychological erotic thriller film based on John Lutz's 1990 novel SWF Seeks Same. It stars Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh and was directed by Barbet Schroeder.
Allison "Allie" Jones is a software designer in New York City, engaged to Sam Rawson. Sam's ex-wife calls, and it is revealed that he slept with her recently. Allie throws Sam out, breaking off their engagement, and is comforted by neighbor Graham Knox, an aspiring actor. The next morning, Allie attends a business lunch with Mitchell Myerson, a fashion house owner looking to buy Allie's revolutionary new program. He manipulates her into significantly reducing the price; as he is her first and only client, she accepts.
Allie advertises for a new roommate to share her apartment in the Ansonia. She settles on Hedra Carlson, whom she nicknames "Hedy", and they become friends. Hedy explains that her twin was stillborn, leaving her with constant loneliness. Hedy becomes overly protective of Allie, erasing Sam's voice-mail asking Allie for a reconciliation. She buys a puppy named Buddy to bond with Allie, but becomes jealous when Sam wins Allie back and they seek a new apartment for themselves. Perceiving Allie as having rejected her, Hedy is upset and becomes further frustrated when Buddy does not come to her even when she coaxes him. Allie and Sam later find Buddy's corpse on the ground below her apartment's window. Returning to the apartment, Allie sees that the window was open with a gap that Buddy could get through. Hedy claims that Buddy's death was an accident because she had thought the bars outside the window had been fixed.
Mitchell tries to coerce Allie into performing fellatio on him on completion of their deal, threatening to warn off future clients and not pay her, but she fights back and escapes. To comfort Allie, Hedy takes her to get a haircut, but after Hedy appears dressed exactly like her, including her haircut, Allie is unnerved. That night, Allie follows Hedy to an underground nightclub and witnesses Hedy passing herself off as Allie. Allie finds a shoebox containing letters addressed to Ellen Besch – Hedy's real name – along with a letter from Sam to Allie, and a newspaper clipping on the accidental drowning of Hedy's twin sister when she was nine years old.
While Allie tells Graham the truth about Hedy, they are unaware Hedy is listening. Allie leaves, and Hedy attacks Graham. When Sam returns the following night, Hedy impersonates Allie and performs oral sex on him. She begs him to leave Allie alone, but he refuses and insists on telling Allie the truth. Furious, Hedy kills him by gouging his eye with her stiletto heel.
Hedy tells Allie she is about to leave. Allie sees a news report on Sam's death and realizes what has happened. She tries to leave, but Hedy takes her hostage at gunpoint, explaining that everyone will believe Allie killed Sam. To "protect" Allie, Hedy tries to convince her that they must run away. Allie attempts to send a distress message, but Hedy catches her.
Mitchell notices his files being erased (a security program initiated by late payments), and rushes to find Allie. He finds her bound and gagged with duct tape, but is shot by Hedy while attempting to free Allie. Hedy then tries to persuade Allie to commit suicide via drug overdose, but Allie resists. Hedy points the gun at Allie as she tries to run, begging Allie not to leave her. Allie coldly tells her, "I'm not like your sister, Hedy. Not anymore. I'm like you now." Graham regains consciousness and assists Allie. Allie drags Hedy off her friend, flees, and is shot in the shoulder by Hedy. After seemingly strangling Allie to death, Hedy drags her towards the incinerator, but Allie recovers and escapes. Screaming for Allie to come out, Hedy lashes out at a mirror inside a closet. Allie stabs her in the back with a screwdriver, and they struggle before Allie watches in horror and sadness as Hedy dies.
In an epilogue, Allie narrates that she has finally moved on. She forgives Hedy for killing Sam, and tries to forgive herself for Hedy's death, stating that Hedy's survivor's guilt was her downfall. The film finishes with a photo of both Allie and Hedy's faces combined into one.
- Bridget Fonda as Allison "Allie" Jones
- Jennifer Jason Leigh as Hedra "Hedy" Carlson / Ellen Besch
- Steven Weber as Sam Rawson
- Peter Friedman as Graham Knox
- Stephen Tobolowsky as Mitchell Myerson
- Frances Bay as Elderly Neighbor
- Jessica Lundy as Talkative applicant
- Ken Tobey as Desk Clerk
The film debuted at No. 2 at the US box office on its opening weekend behind Unforgiven, and grossed $48 million at the box office in the United States and Canada. It grossed $36 million overseas for a worldwide total of $84 million.
The film received a 54% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 48 reviews (26 positive, 22 negative). The site's consensus states: "Single White Female benefits from a pair of outstanding leads, neither of whom are well served by a storyline that wavers between thrillingly tense and utterly ridiculous." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale. Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four with the comment, "No genre is beyond redemption or beneath contempt, and here the slasher genre is given its due with strong performances and direction." He also questioned why the character Hedra had been given such an unusual name.
Jennifer Jason Leigh won a MTV Movie Award for Best Villain, and was also nominated for a Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress.
The character of Hedy has been cited as an example of borderline personality disorder. She suffers from a markedly disturbed sense of identity, and tries to remedy it by adopting the wholesome attributes of her roommate. It is implied that she feels a deep-seated emptiness, while her fear of abandonment leads to drastic measures.
Single White Female was released on VHS and LaserDisc in January 1993 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and eventually on DVD in February 1998. The film was released on Blu-ray from Scream Factory on November 13, 2018, featuring new interviews with director Barbet Schroeder, actors Steven Weber and Peter Friedman and screenwriter Don Roos, an audio commentary from Schroeder, editor Lee Percy and associate producer Susan Hoffman, and a theatrical trailer.
As of December 2016, NBC was developing a television adaptation of the film.
- "Weekend Box Office Eastwood Still Tall in the Saddle". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
- "Weekend Box Office 'Unforgiven' at Top for Third Week". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
- "Single White Female". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
- Groves, Don (February 22, 1993). "Hollywood Wows World Wickets". Variety. p. 85.
- "Single White Female". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
- "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
- Ebert, Roger (14 August 1992). "Single White Female". Retrieved 5 April 2020.
- Robinson DJ (January 2003). Reel Psychiatry:Movie Portrayals of Psychiatric Conditions. Port Huron, Michigan: Rapid Psychler Press. p. 235. ISBN 1-894328-07-8.
- "'Single White Female' TV Series In the Works at NBC (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter.