I finally watched this last night with some friends and it definitely lived up to the hype. I’m not a big fan of ‘so bad it’s good’ movies (I have never seen a Uwe Boll film) but The Room is the real deal and we’re going to have to see it again since we missed about 2/3rds of the dialog we were laughing so hard.
Borges famously described Citizen Kane as a labyrinth with no centre and it’s true that the more you watch it the more mysterious and complex it becomes. I suspect The Room functions in much the same way – some of the film’s superfans in Los Angeles have watched it dozens of times. Here’s a representative quote by a Room devotee from an AV Club article about the fan cult:
“I genuinely love The Room. I never have a bad time, which is why I’ve been eight or nine times so far. Oftentimes when I’m feeling down or depressed, I’ll wish I could live forever in the dark space of The Room, where you can say whatever you want, people will laugh, and you never have to worry about the consequences of your actions. Forget booze, the real intoxicant is the film itself. Let the earnest ineptitude wash over you, and submit to the unholy power of The Room.” —Jon Danforth-Appell, The Room superfan
A lot of the unintended humour comes from lead actor Wiseau, the film’s auteur who cannot direct, produce or write but is undeniably a powerful screen presence. With his gaunt, pockmarked face, long permed hair dyed raven black, bodybuilder’s physique and penchant for baggy, flowing clothes he is an unique performer and by the end of the film the mere sight of Wiseau shuffling zombie-like around San Francisco climbing off and on street cars had us shaking with laughter. He speaks in an impossible-to-place mitteleuropean accent and is given to bursting into laughter at highly inappropriate times. Here’s some sample dialogue between Wiseau – who plays Johnny – and his best friend Mark:
Mark: How was work today?
Johnny: Oh pretty good. We got a new client… at the bank. We make a lot of money.
Mark: What client?
Johnny: I can not tell you, its confidential.
Mark: Oh come on. Why not?
Johnny: No I can’t. Anyway, how is your sex life?
Needless to say, no reference is ever made to this mysterious client for the rest of the film. Instead people announce that they are pregnant or dying of terminal illnesses and random unexplained characters wander in and out of the movie, occasionally to have sex. The camera pans aimlessly around a room (but not ‘The Room’, the title of the film is never explained) and we found ourselves cheering it on as it wandered towards a group of characters in a party scene. Like The Rocky Horror Show, US based fans of The Room have audience participation showings where they yell out jokes and throw spoons at the screen.
Some people feel that celebrating poor or mediocre movies is a sign of a decadent culture and I’m sympathetic to this argument. Why waste time watching bad films when there are so many great ones out there? But The Room is, I think different. It is hard to make something this authentically terrible and audiences are very sensitive to irony or intentional parody. The key to the unique awfulness of The Room is that Tommy Wisaeu is a wounded soul who wanted to share his pain with the rest of the world and the film really is a cri de coer from a heartfelt yet hapless artist. Most of his spleen is vented at women who Wiseau thinks are evil and crazy, but also bewitching. There are at least four sex scenes in The Room, all of them excruciatingly long with terrible saxophone driven power-ballads playing over lingering, unfocused shots of candles, rose petals, lace curtains billowing in the wind and then end with Wiseau’s muscular, pitted ass filling the screen as he grunts and groans over his fiance, the deceitful vixen Lisa.
I’ve asked the Film Festival to screen The Room but haven’t heard back from them. If anyone reading this has any pull with the festival I’d urge them to use it now and get that giant ass up on screen at the Embassy this July.