March 2013

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So Bad It's Good: The Room


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Release Date 2003

Directed By Tommy Wiseau

Written By Tommy Wiseau

Starring Tommy Wiseau


I am a cinema fanatic. Film, in all its forms, has been a huge part of my life for many years. It is the ability to make me cry and laugh, it can be enjoyable and painful – and sometimes a little bit of both.

The Room is no exception. Gaining a staggering score of 3.3/10 on the internet movie database, this film is clearly terrible, but it is a masterpiece. Released in 2003, after several years of production, The Room has been gaining vast popularity ever since. The biggest question to consider when discussing this film’s rise to fame is “oh dear God WHY?” The answer is simple. It is so much fun. I have seen it so many times with so many different people, and delight in their reactions to this highly quotable abomination. It never gets old.

The film is like a step-by-step guide on how not to make a movie. The music is cheesy, the camerawork dodgy, the acting impossibly bad, and the direction flat out bizarre.

The Room is a film about a man, Johnny (played by writer, director, producer, alien Tommy Wiseau) whose life falls apart after his friends betray him one by one – from his charming best friend Mark (producer Greg Sestero) to his manipulative ‘future wife’ Lisa (Juliette Danielle). His man-child, adopted, college-student friend-thing, Denny (I’ve never been entirely sure what he’s supposed to be) seems to be the only one who stays true to Johnny in a world of lies. It’s no surprise that the film culminates (possible spoiler warning, but not really) with Johnny completely losing it and throwing a TV out of the window before the shocker of a climax that shows the true consequences of betrayal.

The film is like a step-by-step guide on how not to make a movie. The music is cheesy, the camerawork dodgy, the acting impossibly bad, and the direction flat out bizarre. There are some pleasant enough shots of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, but they serve no purpose beyond a vague attempt to distract from The Room seeming like an extended bottle episode of a particularly terrible late-night soap (if such a thing even exists). Shifting from a scene in the apartment, to an establishing shot of the city, back to a scene in the apartment – it’s nonsensical; yes, we know we are STILL in San Francisco. While all of this makes for pretty bad film, it is the script that truly sets it apart from the rest. It’s overflowing with irrelevant conversations and bombshells that are dropped but then forgotten about. As a quick Google search will tell you, award-worthy lines like “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!”, “Oh Hai, [insert name, species or inanimate object here]” and “The test results came back, I definitely have breast cancer” aren’t just scattered throughout, but make up the vast majority of the dialogue. They make for fascinating watching, like a bunch of clowns in a train-wreck.


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Aside from the prevalent misogyny, which I’d object to if it wasn’t so blatant and widely-mocked, and the sub-par technical abilities of the cast and crew (Wiseau credited at least three times), it is the way in which Johnny is portrayed that adds the extra dimension of awfulness. He is a borderline super-hero. He is a banking-genius and a loyal and generous ‘future-husband’ (never ‘fiancé’, ever). He’s the super-best-friend-for-ever and, of course, an ‘amazing lover’ (read ‘vomit-inducing and excruciating’). The man can do no wrong, Tommy, whoops, I mean Johnny, is a truly “wonderful man”, and everyone agrees, they can’t help but sing his praises at every opportunity, except the beautiful Lisa, who is a conniving, malevolent bitch.

The hilarity and sheer pleasure of watching The Room is immeasurable and thoroughly infectious, I have met only one person, out of the dozens of my friends who have seen it, who does not appreciate the brilliance of the film. It is the go-to film for a group of friends to sit around and enjoy together*, to get involved, quote, joke, chant and have fun with. That is why I love The Room, and that is why it is the Best Worst Film of all time – it even won the audience award at the New York Independent film festival for, what I assume/hope is, that exact reason.

I had the pleasure to see this film on the big screen at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011, and it is definitely a sight to behold. It has the kind of following that allows for interactive viewing, much like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (only unintentionally bad). There’s a football thrown around amongst the audience, cheering and booing at the appropriate times and spoons waved or thrown at the screen when the framed cutlery appears, among a whole host of other highly entertaining things. It adds to the vibrancy of this experience. There is a sense of camaraderie between fans of The Room, an ever-expanding group, as knowledge of the film spreads by word of mouth. A well placed Room reference can open up a whole new realm of conversation.

The film screens at midnight showings on a near monthly basis, sometimes attended by Wiseau and Greg Sestero who answer audience questions.

Today marketed as a black comedy, it is fairly clear that it was a wholly serious endeavour of the part of Tommy Wiseau, who spent $6 million on it (where he got that money, no one really knows). He bought the HD and 35mm cameras and shot the whole film with both, he paid for billboard space in Los Angeles for 5 years and premiered it at film festivals. The effort must have paid off. The film screens at midnight showings on a near monthly basis, sometimes attended by Wiseau and Greg Sestero who answer audience questions. Just this year a few of my lucky friends had the opportunity to witness this in person as The Room toured the UK – they have photographic evidence that made me jealous. There are t-shirts, mugs and other merchandise available to fill your life with all things Room. Fans at Newgrounds.com have created an online game based on the film, which is a blast to play if you have several hours to kill, and there is a book set to be published later this year, penned by Sestero himself. The film has been a resounding cult success, despite/because of its blatantly obvious flaws.

I could write for hours and hours about this film, everything that makes it terrible and everything that makes is great, but I could never completely do it justice. The film is an example of what happens when you have your heart set on an idea, no talent, and friends too kind to let you know how much it sucks - and it’s perfect. All I can say is watch it, you will not be disappointed.**

*Not recommended for individual viewing, lest you want the overwhelming desire to gouge out your eyes with the all-important spoon.

**But if you are then “leave your stupid comments in your pocket” and move on.

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