Tommy Wiseau’s debut and final feature length film holds the throne in the amongst cult classic “So Bad They’re Good” treasures, like Batman and Robin and the 2006 remake of The Wickerman. As opposed to films of similar quality to Wiseau’s “hit”, (for example Gigli or Adam Sandler’s more recent filmography), if you asked a passer-by on the street whether they had ever heard of The Room chances are they would not understand what you are talking about. However, if you ventured into student accommodation, rummaged through a stoner’s film collection, or asked one of the very few audience members from its original theatrical run in LA, they would certainly be able to tell you a thing or two about it.
Right from the opening scene when the eccentric Johnny, played by Wiseau himself bursts onto screen and spouts the infamous line “Hi babe”, you can tell this isn’t going to be an ordinary film. As described by its IMDB page The Room is about a successful banker who lives with his fiancée Lisa, who one day inexplicably gets bored of him and decides to seduce his best friend Mark. That is essentially the core story, if there is one at all. However, the script, penned by Wiseau, is riddled with some of the most horrendous dialogue ever put to celluloid, with plot holes as deep as the tunnel Andy Dufresne excavates in The Shawshank Redemption.
In parallel to Dufresne’s tunnel, as the narrative of The Room progresses, the film crawls deeper into a “river of shit”, that picks up and drops narrative threads like they’re going out of style. What are the details surrounding Denny’s problems with the drug dealers? What ever happened to Lisa’s mother who suddenly announced out of nowhere that she has breast cancer? And why is The Room called “The Room” in the first place? With all of that said, there are films with terrible scripts that are saved from sheer atrocity due to the fine acting of the cast. The Room, however, is not one of those films. Instead, you could probably find more acting talent in the potted plant section of a garden centre.
Even from a technical standpoint; The Room is no Citizen Kane. From ADR arranged by someone who must have only ever watched dubbed versions of Kung Fu movies, to shockingly awkward editing that leaves for huge pauses between dialogue and dramatic momentum, there is cause for concern here. Lest we forget the grueling sex scenes that could only ever serve the purpose of making up a bad show reel for Brazzers. What might be more commendable though is Tommy Wiseau’s ability to time travel to the movie-making days of the late eighties and early nineties. Given the year of its release, 2003, compare a shot from The Room against another “modern” film from that same year like Bruce Almighty or Lost In Translation – The Room looks positively ancient in comparison. From the TV movie-like cinematography to the dated costumes, The Room feels and looks like it wouldn’t be out of place listed on Moviefone between Pretty Woman and Ghost.
On the surface, Wiseau’s magnum opus appears to bear no redeemable features whatsoever. However, whether or not he intended to, Wiseau has inadvertently created a unique communal experience for filmgoers worldwide. Thanks to word of mouth and celebrity endorsements from the likes of Seth Rogen; to David Cross praising the hilarious nature of this ill-found drama, The Room has finally found its calling as well as a paying audience.
While its original release saw audience members leaving the screen barely 30 minutes in asking for refunds, people now flock to screenings of this iconic misstep in the evolution of film making, projected in all its glory. The ham-handed delivery of the shoddy dialogue is painful, yet somehow causes audiences to erupt with laughter, reducing many to tears of hilarity. The shots of spoon iconography littered throughout the film (you’ll have to watch it to see what I mean) provoke the audience to interact and chuck spoons at the screen in homage to the omnificent presence of Wiseau.
Not only is the success and playfulness of the screenings noteworthy; the most intriguing aspect of this film’s legacyis the complete 180° Tommy Wiseau has made in terms of the film’s perception, given its cult success. Wiseau now claims that the film was never supposed to be a drama, as it was originally marketed and arguably written, and that it should be seen as a “black comedy” instead. As a result, Wiseau now basks unashamedly in the success and profit of the multiple screenings of The Room that are now often accompanied by a live Q&A featuring Wiseau answering questions from fans about this cinematic phenomenon.
For those mesmerised by the cult stardom of The Room, it is hard to determine what exactly about the picture makes it so appealing given its inherent flawed nature. Perhaps it’s the sheer inconceivable idea of the movie having ever been made that has captured the minds of the audience. Or it could be to do with the ridiculously quotable dialogue, or the delivery of such verbosity by the most bottom-of-the-list actors that have ever been seen on screen that has ignited fans with such passion.
One thing is for sure; if you ever get the chance to see a screening of The Room at your local cinema, do not miss out! But then again, maybe I should leave my stupid comments in my pocket...
The Room returns for FACT with its infamous director Tommy Wisseau on 10 February at 6.20pm and again at 9.10pm where Wisseau will preview the pilot of his new tv show Advance booking is strongly recommended!