The Room (2003) – Tommy Wiseau (Dir.), Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero, Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, TOMMY WISEAU
Throughout the tempered history of cinema, we have seen some bumps in the road of objective quality. We’ve been blessed with the hills and mountains containing the caliber of such works as Citizen Kane, Chariots of Fire and Breathless. We’ve even had some valleys, some deeper than others, crevasses containing such reviled greats as Heaven’s Gate, Waterworld, Transformers, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon and (one can only assume) Battleship. And then, beyond those Mariana’s Trenches of films we are sometimes bequeathed, nay, blessed with movies so catastrophically, categorically, scatologically agonizing that we can only stare into the abyss of awful and applaud.
The Room is such a film.
The word ‘film’ is difficult to apply in a situation such as this. Perhaps the word ‘experience’ would suffice, modified by the words ‘life’ and ‘changing’. Perhaps the word ‘torture’ would be more appropriate. It entirely depends on your point of view. I know that the moment I witnessed the trailer for this movie, touted for having the ‘passion of Tennesse Williams’ (note to self: sequel to Passion of the Christ idea…gayer, obviously. A lot, lot gayer), I couldn’t look away from the screen. It was a compilation of the worst things I have ever seen, each piece flittering across the screen in a performance of such scrotum-shrinking tastelessness, like a motor accident that begins with one car filled with nuns running into a motorbike carrying Gandhi, who’s head smashes into a bus filled with orphans, forcing it to jackknife into a gas station filled with the last remaining survivors of WWII. You know that watching this is about a morally acceptable as kicking Mother Theresa in the nuts…but you can’t look away. It’s mesmerizing.
So…who is this man, Tommy Wiseau? Why did he make this movie? How? For what purpose? Where is he from? Why does he talk as though he were Albert Einstein after suffering a stroke? The answer is simple: nobody knows. Not even Tommy. Funded by, “selling leather jackets from Korea”, Mr. Wiseau (a veteran of the Stella Adler acting school…WTF?) wrote, produced, directed and starred in this…I want to say ‘drama’ but it’s almost impossible to tell.
What makes this movie bad? Well, ‘bad’ is just a word, while the concept is something that can only be witnessed. Everything makes this movie bad. Literally everything. But this is no Manos Hands of Fate, this is no monkey with a camcorder production, a lackluster affair sprinkled with spare moments of inept hilarity. Every single scene in this movie is almost perfectly constructed to be the worst piece of shit anyone could have ever hoped to have produced. Of course, Wiseau will tell his fans, through a bluster of constant-drunkeness, an undoubtedly essential haze of inebriation required to stop himself from reminding his brain that he is, in fact, still Tommy Wiseau, that this is a ‘comedy’. This has as much comedic intent as Sarah Palin’s Vice Presidential campaign. Filmmakers like Michael Bay have the tendency to simply shit on celluloid and pass it to the projectionist, hoping he won’t smell the feces. Somehow, Wiseau took a shit and missed the reel, instead sinking his turd into some kind of artistic ley-line, spreading the excrement through the living veins of the earth, allowing fountains of ordure to erupt through television screens across the nation. Everything is so unfathomably incorrect, and yet at the same time, just competent enough in order to generate a perfect storm, to create the World Series of Shit, the Superbowl of Bollocks, the Holy Grail of “Holy God That Was Terrible”.
Here is a list of things wrong with this movie, in no particular order: 1) The phrase ‘Johnny is my Best Friend” is repeated over and over again, 2) People play ‘football’ without ever straying 4 feet from each other, 3) Sideplots involving breast cancer and a drugs deal pop up, make themselves known and are never referenced again, 4) characters enter and exit the scene for no reason, 5) in the numerous sex scenes, shots are blatantly recycled (a few of them of Wiseau’s leathery muppet-ass thrusting his manhood into…gross) 6) characters blatantly disregard the reality of the scene (“Lisa, the music…” there is no music “…the candles…” there are no candles “…the sexy dress…” there is no sexy dress) 7) characters are recast with absolutely no explanation, allowing random people to simply appear in the final scenes with no logical preamble… The list goes on and on and on. It does. Again, it’s not something that can be explained…only witnessed.
Why did I watch this movie? Again? I’ve seen it perhaps a dozen times now. In fact, hundreds of people across the nation pack themselves into midnight showings, plastic cutlery in hand, to witness the divine train wreck that is The Room. That is the level of popularity it has gained. People cheer as the titles begin, we laugh, we cry with laughter, we yell at the screen, we throw spoons, we pass footballs…we celebrate the awful. Why? What part of the human experience has cultivated a need to reward the infallibly inept? This movie is a monument to a man so psychotic that he believes he is from America where it is obvious he’s from…well…France? Maybe Austria? It’s a mystery. Rules have emerged for watching the film. There is a scene where the audience yells out “because you’re a woman!” as Lisa’s mother lists the reasons she can’t live without Johnny. We throw spoons at the screen every time a painting of a spoon appears… an inexplicable piece of set dressing left around the main character’s room. You throw a football around the theater whenever people ‘play football’.
Those rules are great, but the excitement emerges as viewers generate their own callbacks, blurting them out during momentary silences and sending the rest of the audience into a guffawing ruckus. There are movies in the world that require absolute silence. This is not such a film. It’s a communal activity, a place we can join together and revel in the ineptitude of the new century, a party in the honor of schadenfreude. Wiseau himself sometime attends, allowing his ironic fans to bow down to his mess of life he so publicly displays. It’s cruel. It’s sick. It’s one of the most fun things anyone could ever do. Never have I felt as connected to other human beings in a movie theater than I have at the screening of these movies. It’s a rush, a blast of exhilaration. It’s an infinitely giving canvas for the sarcastic, a medium for the sardonic and a refuge for the boorish. It is everything I have ever wanted in a theater-going experience.
This is a gladiatorial match of the new century, a battle between Taste and Tastelessness and we are the thronging crowds begging for blood. We gnash our teeth. We stamp our feet. As Tastelessness traps Taste in its net, readying the trident to strike down into the jugular, we applaud, screaming to see the blade sever the lifeline, to see the highbrow shaved and whittled down to awfulness. As Wiseau screams “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!”, as Sestero shaves his beard and begins wearing denim, as Lisa pouts and lies about being pregnant, as a Harry Potter-look-alike gets fired from the set, as Johnny buys flowers from a woman in the most bizarrely unsynched scene of dialogue ever created, we, the public, lower our thumbs. Tastelessness raises the trident, drinking in Taste’s fear, its pleas for salvation. Tastelessness laughs and announces, “You hope to be spared? This is for Uwe Boll!”
The three-pronged weapon falls. The crowd is silent. Taste bleeds out, a stuck pig. We see its last grasp on life trickle away. We see ‘subtlety’ soak into the sand. We see ‘pathos’ evaporate. We see the final breath drift from its lips, the last ounce of thoughtfulness left.
Tastelessness raises its hand. We cheer once more. Taste is dead. Long live the terrible.