The Room (2003)
Director: Tommy Wiseau
Starring: Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero, Juliette Danielle, Philip Haldiman.
Plot: Johnny is a successful and ambitious banker, keen to live a happy life with his wife, Lisa. However things to a turn for the worst when Lisa begins an affair with Johnny’s best friend Mark.
Every now and then a masterpiece in filmmaking emerges out of a film festival; stars are born, and new and captivating stories are introduced to the world. But, now and again, one film slips through the woodwork that leaves people questioning how exactly we know it. One such a film is called ‘The Room’, which is written, produced, stars, and is directed by, Tommy Wiseau. The Room was clearly created with the vision of making a classic auteur style piece, but ended up coming off as one man’s personal story that couldn’t quite translate into a comprehensible piece of cinema, no matter how you look at it.
Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) is an ambitious banker who lives with his fiancé Lisa (Juliette Danielle) while also caring for his possibly adopted son – the story of which is never quite clear – Denny (Philip Haldiman). The film revolves around Johnny’s life: he’s surrounded by friends and a loving fiancé, while maintaining a successful career in banking, but Johnny’s perfect life starts to lose its charm when his fiancé decides she’s bored and wants an affair with Johnny’s best friend Mark (Greg Sestero).
The Room, a film that has achieved cult status in the past decade, is not shy of taking advantage of its bad popularity. The movie epitomises the idea that bad publicity is better than no publicity, with the film’s visionary Tommy Wiseau regularly touring the USA screening the film at local movie theatres with hundreds of paying customers. None of these paying customers go to see the film to get lost in the film’s rich narrative however, and you will never meet someone who is in love with the film’s weak scriptwriting, unambitious cinematography and elevator music soundtrack, but you will find people who admire the film’s unintentional humour.
What is it then that makes The Room such a classic cult film? At some point, we have all wasted time and money to see a bad film, or purchased a straight-to-DVD movie, not to mention all of the thousands of laughably bad pictures that are released every year and never see the light of day; so why is The Room the undisputed champion of bad cult films? Perhaps the majority of it can be attributed to the film’s star, Tommy Wiseau, a man who claims to have sourced the film’s budget of Six million US dollars by importing and selling leather Jackets from Korea, a man who once considered himself as the next Marlon Brando, and a man who insisted on having his bare backside shown on film to help the film sell. Tommy Wiseau is one of those eccentric characters who appear every year on reality shows and end up becoming national treasures.
Wiseau’s dynamic personality isn’t just limited behind the scenes as it’s also captured on-screen throughout the film. Due to his inability to memorise lines, most of his dialogue was dubbed over, which has resulted in hilariously bad and out-of-sync line delivery. His scenes are seemingly impossible to watch with a straight face and, of course, are very reminiscent of those cult-like martial arts films from the 70s. Speaking of the dialogue, The Room is arguably one of the most quotable films in cinematic history, with a guaranteed side-splitting line or two in every scene. Some of its most poorly written and horribly executed lines include: “Anyway, how is your sex life?”; “You’re lying, I never hit you. You are tearing me apart Lisa!”, and; “Leave your stupid comments in your pocket!”… to name just a few. In short, The Room has a collection of quotable lines that would put Arnold Schwarzenegger’s one-liners to shame.
Wiseau has also shown what kind of a character he his with his choice of bizarre and irrelevant subplots. The film grows a multitude of them out of nowhere, some having nothing to do with the plot and others resolved as soon as they are conceived, with the rest being completely forgotten about and-or nonsensical. For example, Lisa’s mother (Carolyn Minnott) announces to Lisa that she has breast cancer, but seems more interested about Lisa’s relationship with Johnny and never mentions it again. In another scene, Denny is nearly murdered over some drug money before being saved by Johnny and Mark who escort Denny’s assailant through the American justice system and to jail in the space of 4 minutes. Not to mention repeated scenes of Johnny and his friends playing football, with one scene in particular happening in tuxedos, with no explanation whatsoever. Many fans have questioned the significance and context of such scenes in Q&A meetings hosted by Wiseau, only to be left with extraneous and cryptic answers. A famous answer he has given in regards to playing football in tuxedos was ‘football is fun and that playing it without protective gear is a challenge’.
The Room is a film that took itself too seriously and ended up turning into a hilariously bad cult film. Since its release, Tommy Wiseau has failed at every turn to produce legitimate explanations for his film and its bizarre and questionable content, but has tried claiming it be a ‘black comedy’. Since its release, the films co-star and line producer Greg Sestero has released a book called ‘The Disaster Artist’, which is an account of the making of The Room along with details with regard to working with Tommy Wiseau – the story of which is currently being made into a film courtesy of James Franco.
And there you have it, the film is terrible. There’s no strong and powerful message, or even a sense of fulfillment, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining, as it’s actually the type of film that yields successful drinking games. The Room’s atrocious acting, poor line delivery, random questionable moments and laughable sex scenes overall make it an enjoyable experience. It doesn’t just stand out for these reasons, but because of the man behind it all too. Tommy Wiseau is now a somewhat prominent figure in popular culture and is always doing or saying something that gets worldwide attention. With the upcoming release of ‘The Disaster Artist’, Tommy Wiseau and The Room’s presence in popular culture can only get more prominent. Overall, this is a great film to watch if you’re having a bad day, or just want a few laughs, but not if you’re looking for a culturally significant, thought-provoking masterpiece.