Once upon a time, in 2001, there was a little film made that through the years to come would become one of the most infamously terrible b-movies ever made. The movie itself wasn't released until 2003 where it met such an ironic reception. Writer/Producer/Director/Actor, Tommy Wiseau poured his heart and soul into a drama about deception and betrayal, but audiences laughed harder than they would at most comedies. This is because The Room is a prime example of a movie that is so unbelievable awful that it becomes entertaining somehow. It's bizarre. It's gotten such a reputation that now people will go out of their way to find this film and watch it just to witness the train wreck that it is. And that's exactly what it is, a wreck that you can't take your eyes away from.
The Room doesn't have a story that is particularly mind blowing. Essentially it's about Johnny (Tommy Wiseau), who is so perfect that he takes care of all of the people in his life, especially his wife to be, Lisa (Juliette Danielle). But Lisa is just insatiable and goes after Mark (Greg Sestero), Johnny's best friend. They have sex, but Johnny doesn't know about it. But watch out! Other people are onto their game and Lisa's mom has breast cancer and their pal Denny (Philip Haldiman) has been getting into some trouble with drugs and stuff, but that's okay because it's all completely irrelevant.
What is it that makes The Room so bad anyway? Well, it's hard to know where to start, but I think the first major problem is the script. That's always the first place to start anyway. I once heard someone say that being able to write dialogue is a God given gift that only some people possess. Tommy Wiseau is not one of those people. First, he doesn't really talk like anyone else. His accent is untraceable and the words that come out of his mouth don't really fit together all the time. And... he writes like this. Even if the actors he got were actually decent at their job, their lines stink of Wiseau. There is no way to make them sound good because no one talks like that. I wonder why nobody said so on set... or maybe they did and were just instructed to stick to the script. Either way... yikes. Wiseau himself, is a horrible actor. His delivery of lines is where a lot of the humour comes from. He just says things in the complete wrong way. And supposedly he's a trained actor! Something must have happened... a head injury perhaps? Or maybe he did get the training, but didn't actually pass the courses he took.
What is curious about the film is that it really seems like a very personal project for Wiseau. I think it's pretty obvious that he pretty much envisions himself as Johnny. He can do no wrong and anyone who betrays him is completely to blame and all he would do is support everyone he knows. You get the sense that someone cheated on him and this is his ode to that situation. It's exaggerated, but you get the sense that it's based on something real. So, I suppose one could say that he's just film making in a real visceral, pure way and that one shouldn't fault him because it really is something that comes from his heart, right? I mean, after all, if this is his art form and it's sincere and really means something to him, isn't that good enough?
No, absolutely not. This movie is a piece of crap and he couldn't let his ego get out of the way long enough to let people tell him that. That's why it's good to get someone else to look at your script, at the very least. If you are in complete control and shut everyone else out of the process, you can be blind to the flaws... and there are plenty of flaws to go around here. And what's even more puzzling is that this isn't even a low budget picture. I've heard mixed numbers, but reportedly it cost anywhere from $3 - 6 MILLION dollars to make this movie! How does anyone blow that much money and have a product this awful?! Could it be that Wiseau is secretly a marketing genius? The movie took off... Could he have known the perfect combination of bad ideas to make a b-movie sensation? Could Tommy Wiseau actually be brilliant?
I highly doubt it. You can't fake this kind of awful. Usually you can see if there is a tongue placed in the film maker's cheek. You can see when people are having fun making a bad movie. The Room is so painfully earnest that it's downright nauseating. He's trying so hard to cram good morals down our throats that we don't get any sort of complex characters. Johnny is good. Lisa is bad. Mark is good. Mark without his beard is bad. End of story. I'm really not sure what to make of Tommy Wiseau, but it sure doesn't seem like he's got the greatest understanding of reality or even himself. Some people are kinds weird and know it... I don't think he knows it.
It has become such an ironic hit that many theatres will play special screenings of the movie. One of these is Vancouver's Rio theatre, which often plays classic movies, both good and bad. Every so often they will play The Room for an enthusiastic audience which has fully embraced the incompetence of the film maker. So, there are two ways you can survive the experience of watching this movie. Maybe three if you count turning it off. One, you can watch an online review of it, like I did initially while watching the Nostalgia Critic. Two, you can watch it as a social event where you are with a group of people who know and love the pain they are about to go through. I hold b-movie nights with my friends, and this could fit right in. This is where we sit around and make fun of the film as it plays, not unlike Mystery Science Theatre 3000. I tried out another, more community based way. The Room at The Rio was a whole different experience and I'm glad this is the way I first saw this film in its entirety.
The line up was out the door going down the block and people were encouraged to come in character. A man with a goofy looking black wig came out doing a poor Tommy Wiseau impression, tossing a football at members of the line. This is of course in references to the many completely pointless games of football that are played in the movie. Well, not football so much as throwing footballs at one another. Once I entered the theatre, I realized that this was going to be an event not too dissimilar to the midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where the audience is part of the show, interacting with the characters on screen and throwing items in the air when the time is right.
In The Room there is a particularly strange piece of set decoration that audiences have found themselves attached to. On one of the tables in Lisa's house, there is a framed picture of a spoon. No, I have no idea why and I am really trying to figure out the thought process behind it, but to no avail. Every time that spoon is on screen the audience throws plastic spoons in the air in celebration. Another strange flaw of the movie is everyone greeting everyone else in the movie. In every scene, whenever anyone enters, Johnny says “Hi Denny!” or “Hi Mark!” This may seem natural, but you don't realize how forced and unnatural it is until you see it in practice in The Room. So, to express their gratitude for how obnoxiously redundant it gets, every time anyone enters the audience exclaims “Hi Denny!” or “Hi Mark!” or whoever. It's great fun.
I'm not sure I would have been able to finish watching The Room had the audience not been there to keep everything in perspective. The scenes are so disjointed and redundant that it makes its hour and forty minute run time seem a whole lot longer than it really is. It's like flushing a toilet with a particularly stubborn floater; it just pointlessly goes in circles and you don't anticipate the finale so much... you just want it to happen already. The energy of the audience was contagious and quite positive. They knew what movie they're watching and it was all in good fun. It never felt mean spirited.
The Room? It's a really rough ride and a completely incompetent film. The Room at The Rio? That's an experience to be a part of. You join a community of bad film appreciators and the comedy from all of the countless flaws is amplified. It's a celebration of bad movie making. Perhaps it's because basically anyone in the audience could have made a better movie if they were given a fraction of the amount of money it took to make The Room. I suppose that's what we have to do to get by in life. If we don't laugh at this movie then we need to mourn it and that's not nearly as fun.