The Room, 2003.
Directed by Tommy Wiseau.
Starring Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero.
A black comedy about love, passion, betrayal and lies.
After hearing this film be described as ‘one of the worst films ever made’ and a ‘mix of Tennessee Williams, Ed Wood and R. Kelly’s ‘Trapped in the Closet‘ I was naturally quite intrigued and even, because I don’t get out much, a little bit excited about my first viewing of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. I tried not to get my hopes up though and attempted to ignore all the tales I had heard of cringe-worthy dialogue, bizarre plot holes, excruciatingly bad acting, tacky sets and dodgy editing, as I think that cinematically appalling ‘gems’ are often most appreciated when you stumble across them, not when they’ve been massively over-hyped and you’ve been told eighty times how unbelievably embarrassing and hysterical it all is. It turns out there was no need to try and dampen down my hopes.
The film is based on a novel and play by Wiseau and was released in 2003 after he funded a mammoth publicity campaign which included plastering his own scowling face over a giant billboard on Highland Avenue in L.A. The film was branded the ‘Citizen Kane of bad movies,’ but not long after its release it managed to gain a cult following of people who were absolutely fanatical about it. Special screenings were set up for which audience members would dress up as the main characters which still take place today in both the U.S.A and the U.K.
The Room is a melodrama revolving around a group of friends that conveniently all live in the same apartment block. There’s Mark (the sexy one), Denny (the pervy, slightly sinister teenage boy one), Johnny, played by Wiseau himself and Lisa, Johnny’s fiancée. Johnny and Mark are BFFs, which makes things a little awkward when Lisa and Mark start having an affair. Denny has also succumbed to Lisa’s mysterious charms but is more of a spectator, watching eagerly from the sidelines with his hand down his trousers, not really getting in on any of the action. And boy is there a lot of action. I’m talking three, very extended sex scenes, complete with Johnny’s RnB nookie tape blaring away in the background, all within the first twenty five minutes.
The rest of the film deals with Mark and Lisa’s affair, and eventually the consequences of it. The sub-plots, however, provide a substantial amount of the entertainment. It would make a fun game to see how many extra story-lines you can spot that are introduced and then pretty much forgotten in an instant. A couple of the most bizarre examples are when Lisa’s mother casually announces that she has breast cancer, and Denny’s roof top encounter with a gun-wielding drug dealer – neither of which are mentioned again during the rest of the film.
Wiseau’s performance as Johnny is generally quite baffling and slightly absurd. He skulks around looking a bit like a Neanderthal that’s just been thawed out after 500,000 years of being preserved in a Siberian ice cave – part of me wouldn’t have been surprised if this turned out to be an actual sub plot. Perhaps that would explain Johnny’s slightly peculiar take on the English language and his apparent inability to interact normally with Homo sapiens. The film is littered with bouts of oversimplified and unrealistic dialogue and after about twenty minutes of watching the film I came to the conclusion that Tommy Wiseau must have never had a conversation with anyone before. Ever. It’s the only way to explain the following dialogue, which is a little snippet of conversation from a scene in which Johnny and Mark are discussing the troubling topic of women-folk:
Johnny: I’m so happy I have you as my best friend, and I love Lisa so much.
Mark: Yeah man, you are very lucky.
Johnny: Well maybe you should have a girl Mark…What happened? Remember Betty? That’s her name?
Mark: Betty? Yeah, we don’t see each other anymore. She wasn’t any good in bed. She was beautiful, but we had too many arguments.
Johnny: That’s too bad. My Lisa is great when I can get it.
Mark: Aw man, I just can’t figure women out. Sometimes they’re just too smart. Sometimes they’re just flat-out stupid. Other times…they’re just evil.
Oh Mark, don’t underestimate your knowledge. ‘Smart, stupid and evil’ is the Holy Trinity of the female species. It seems like your philosophy on women is almost complete.
Many have wondered how legendary ‘bad director’ Ed Wood would have dealt with his infamy if it had all started before his death. Unfortunately for Tommy Wiseau, he is very much still alive and so must face the scrutiny of both his critics and his audience. It seems that if your film develops a cult status for being utterly dreadful you can do one of two things. The first option: hold your hands up and admit it was you that caused the cinematic stench permeating the nostrils of your suffering audience. The second option: Denial. Strangely enough, it seems like Wiseau has plumped for both. He often appears at the special screenings of his film and answers questions from his audience, so he must at least have a hunch that their appreciation of it is somewhat ironic. However, Wiseau has also denied that his film was intended as a straight drama, and has claimed that it was in fact intended to be a black comedy…a statement that a number of the film’s actors have claimed is untrue. One anonymous member of the cast said “He is a nice guy. But he is full of shit. He was trying to put together a drama. It was basically his stage to show off his acting ability.”
All in all, The Room is somewhat of an unlikely masterpiece. Although it could never be taken seriously, I think it’s probably been enjoyed by everyone that’s watched it – a bit like a theme park ride that’s a lot of fun, but also makes you feel a little bit sick. And you have to hand it to the guy, Wiseau’s dedication and unshakable faith in his project paid off eventually, even if it isn’t in quite the way he initially imagined. And although the audience may not come away pondering his psychologies on relationships like he may have wanted them to, at least you come away with something. And that’s more than you can for a lot of the studio funded Hollywood disasters out there. Well done Wiseau, keep up the good work. Actually, on second thoughts…