A Film with the Passion of Tennessee Williams
Although The Room has been around for quite some time now, no Pajiba staffer has ever attempted to cover it. I soon realized this may be because there’s almost no way of even adequately doing this film justice in a review. To say The Room is a “bad” film is like saying that the Grand Canyon is big or the sun is hot. It’s just almost impossible to find the right words to encompass the sheer awesomeness of the phenomenon. Saying that The Room is the worst film of all time comes a little closer, but still doesn’t even begin to crack the surface. It’s kind of like watching a porno wrapped in a soap opera without the porn. But that’s not entirely true because the frequent and drawn-out gratuitous sex scenes do, at times, straddle the line of softcore porn. Yet, to compare your run-of-the-mill softcore Skinemax flick to The Room would be like comparing a Skinemax flick to Casablanca. The Room is a film that is just so fundamentally terrible in every single facet of its being that it somehow has transcended into a thing of wonder. The only way anyone can really even begin to understand it is to experience it for oneself.
The Room is the brainchild of Tommy Wiseau, who wrote, directed, executive produced, and starred in the film, which he is also said to have financed for the sum of 6 million dollars. I think this gives him way too much credit, as this is approximately 5 million, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand, and four hundred dollars more than it appears to have been made for. Released in 2003, the film would have faded into the obscurity of obscurity if it hadn’t started making headlines about a year ago when it found new life after being discovered by ironic Los Angeles hipsters. Quickly, the film became a cult sensation, selling out packed Rocky Horror-esque screenings to legions of fans who would act out scenes from the movie, throw stuff, and yell at the screen. Now, thanks to the DVD release and recent Netflix availability, this “crap de résistance,” if you will, is now accessible to the rest of the world.
The true beauty of The Room is Tommy Wiseau himself. Or maybe “beauty” isn’t the most accurate of words, because his freakish body and clenching white buttocks during the sex scenes aren’t for the squeamish. The guy is goddamn captivating — watching him is like staring into one of those magic-eye paintings when the image inside of the painting is of a roadside traffic accident. While the other actors in the film are just downright fucking terrible, Wiseau is “light up the screen” terrible. He’s got an exceptionally rare screen presence which channels Christopher Walken crossed with Dr. Nick from “The Simpsons” and a smack of Pepe Le Pew thrown in for good measure. Not much is known about Wiseau’s past, although it’s said he comes from France, which would make sense given his heavy French accent and broken English. So not only does he act through broken English, but the entire script was penned by someone who doesn’t have a complete mastery of the English language, making the dialogue, for lack of a better word, farcical.
The plot, though largely unimportant in the grand scheme of things, contains such complex themes as betrayal, serious betrayal, cancer, betrayal, drug abuse, and more betrayal. Actually, the cancer and the drug abuse stuff aren’t really important so it’s mostly just betrayal. Wiseau stars as “Johnny,” a guy who spends his days working hard to support his future wife Lisa (Juliette Danielle). Despite the fact that Johnny showers her with daily roses and steamy sex, Lisa is bored with the relationship and soon finds herself in the arms of Johnny’s best friend Mark, played by Greg Sestero. Really, I don’t know why I’m going into the names of the actors and actresses here, since they’re pretty much inconsequential. The biggest role any of them in the entire film has had to date (Sestero) is a starring role in a direct-to-DVD sequel of The Puppetmaster. That’s basically it. A timeless story such as this doesn’t need to let itself get bogged down with the details. Johnny and Lisa have sex with each other and then Lisa tells her mother how she’s not in love with Johnny and then she turns to Mark and they have an argument about how Johnny is his best friend but then they have sex anyway. Wash, rinse, repeat. Based on the overall plot of the film and similarity of the character’s name to Tommy Wiseau’s name, I’d wager a bet that this guy got SERIOUSLY screwed over by some devil woman at some point in his life — as such is the case that pain often yields the greatest art.
Wiseau’s style of filmmaking is what can probably best be described as “avant-garde.” Scene didn’t turn out quite to your liking? That’s fine, just dub your lines over. Better yet, just recycle a scene from earlier in the film. Or what if you shot two different cuts of a scene but can’t decide which to use? Why subject yourself to those kinds of decisions? Use them both. Actor quits on you halfway through the movie? That’s fine, use another to pick up where the first left off. No need to bother with cumbersome explanations. Nobody will notice. “Framing” is for suckers. Shoot what you want, and figure it out later. Wiseau also employs the technique of setting the tone of San Francisco, where the film is supposed to take place, not by ever making reference to it but by cutting to long, panning shots of San Francisco’s landmarks — say, the Golden Gate Bridge — between scenes. Incidentally, this also turned out to be a great way to make smooth-as-butter transitions between points in the timeline of his story. And when budgetary restrictions forced him to shoot in a separate location, whereas some lesser filmmakers would have compromised their “vision,” Wiseau was resourceful enough to employ green screen technology as needed.
So what is “the room” of The Room? Tommy Wiseau doesn’t like to get pigeonholed with metaphors, so instead, according to the special features DVD interview, he leaves it open-ended by saying that the room means something different for everyone who watches it. Fair enough. I can’t tell you what The Room meant for me personally because that’s private, but as Wiseau’s character says in the film: “If everybody loved each other, the world would be a better place.” Of course, he also says, “I did not hit her, it’s not true! It’s bullshit! I did not hit her! I did NOTTT. Oh hi, Mark.” — so shit if I know.
Stacey Nosek is the world’s most articulate idiot, and occasionally scrapes the bottom of the television and movie barrel for Pajiba. You can also find her ripping on celebrities at Litelysalted.