Johnny is a successful banker who lives happily in a San Francisco townhouse with his fiancée, Lisa. One day, inexplicably, she gets bored of him and decides to seduce Johnny’s best friend, Mark. From there, nothing will be the same again.
Called one of the “worst movies ever made”, the movie “the Room” resides in the arena of “so bad it’s good” cult experiences worth viewing. I had heard about this film over the years as being odd and fragmented, though it wasn’t until now that I felt compelled enough to give it a whirl.
My in box had suddenly become alive with talks of a “definitive guide Room movie book” which was just the motivation needed to finally put some effort into a review of the film.. claiming it “biggest pop culture phenomenon of the 21st century”, seemed a bit too much to be true, however it was just the push I needed.
Now 99 minutes later, I can say with great confidence that this film provides both some of the worse acting performance and the most uncomfortable dialog sessions on film ever put to screen. With that said, one may even start to make comparisons to David Lynch films praising its genius over stupidity. My take is if it was Lynch-influenced, it seemed more by accident than by inspiration.
For starters, the movie is written by, directed by, and stars actor Tommy Wiseau, the film’s brain child. Tommy Wiseau whom you might mistake initially as sounding like someone who just finished a massive bong-hitting binge due to his lackadaisical San Francisco (insert multiple regions) rooted accent is the film’s primary focal point. So much that you could easily call this film somewhat narcissistic in its “center of the universe” storyline. Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) a successful banker is engaged to the love of his life Lisa (Juliette Danielle) of whom he is due to wed in a month.
Lisa engages in more than 1 on-screen lovemaking session that plays more like a “Showtime After Hours” clip over harshly cheesy romance songs. While 1 scene was more than plenty, I began to think that they were included more so to show the audience Tommy’s well-defined excessive ab muscles more than anything. This trend actually lends itself to about 4 of these love making sessions each with Lisa at the core of the scenes. Ah yes, Lisa…… a character who will drive you nuts in just pure spur of the moment dialog changes that flip flop more times than a person suffering from split personality disorders. The entertainment here is in just that….dialog that makes you want to tear your hair out and kick the TV screen a few times in the process. Lisa’s mother, Claudette (Carolyn Minnott) manages to top her daughter in being just as insanely annoying as any character to hit the screen. So much that it almost requires rewind at times to clarify the script lines that she muttered. Yep…good times indeed!
“The Room” as it is called, takes its name from the fact that most for the action here occurs in Johnny’s apartment. Characters pop in and out like stage hands waiting to grab a snack off of a complimentary tray. What is hilarious here is that the film’s characters often feel at times like they were just standing outside the door (like Kramer from Seinfield) waiting for their que to enter the scene. At the worst of this is next door neighbor Denny (Philip Haldiman), an inquisitive annoying little shit who seems to be the designated adopted movie mascot of the film (whom Johnny and Lisa have taken under wing). Denny’s purpose seems to be to sponge off of Johnny, request playing catch at the most inopportune times, and profess his uncomfortable love for Lisa in the most displaced dialog approach unimaginable. Oh ya, and what’s up with the very displaced “Johnny is messing with drugs, dealer comes collecting scene?”. Moving on…
“The Room” is really more of an experience more than anything. I can tell you about how things lay out and how bad they are presented, but the comedy here falls naturally from its simple lack of film making skills. The script equally as bad as the actors reciting the lines to the point that you would think that Tommy just hired family members over legit actors. With all that said, the film at times tends to feel almost surreal and dream-like in its linear approach from start to finish. A better way to describe this movie is that it literally makes you laugh and cringe throughout most of the film, mostly due to bad a scene just played out. But additionally in how we are supposed to feel about how the pieces of the film were sewn together leaving us with the simple question of “who is this Tommy Wiseau guy and why was he allowed to create a film about himself?”
The film is noted as taking simple ideas and film elements and making them almost iconic to the movie itself. The football, the red dress, the tuxedos, the spoons, the forced dramatic performances…shall I go on?
The movie (believe it or not) was financed under a 6 million budget which only helped to fuel the fire of “why was this turd allowed to exist and under whom’s wasted dollars?”
All the elements of its poor realization contribute to something even greater. That is the makings a film that surpasses those cheesy B-grade films that we see emerge every month and the arrival of a film that begs attendees to share in its audacity and performance. Yes, “The Room” became a true cult film that by default started to cater more towards midnight movie showings than VHS copy residuals. It’s simply a film that promotes much needed conversation afterwards for note comparisons and “did you catch that scene?” justifications.
I began to investigate this abomination and suddenly began to notice that the words “genius” and brilliant” were being used more often than “poor and sad”. So did I stumble upon a hidden gem in disguise? Did my experience suddenly lend itself to a product that I felt the need to inquire about and tell others?…maybe.
In summary, I suppose this product lived on fueled by the obvious passion its creator injected into it. It is a film that requires more behind the scenes information into what was really intentional over accidental? Is Tommy Wiseau really one in the same with the Johnny of “The Room” or was that all an act? Is it possible to be so off-kilter on purpose? In short there is more to examine here than just a bad film. The movie feels like a dupe on its intended audience begging for you to pay closer inspection on next watch. This absurdity is what makes this film so special. But don’t take my word for it….see if after completing all 99 minutes you feel much the same as I did.
A remarkably off kilter experience.