To make up for neglecting this blog, it’s probably about time that we looked at what many critics and normal people alike consider to be The Worst Film Ever Made. It’s a film with its own mythology, a massive fanbase and is popular to the point where its director, Tommy Wiseau, has made his living since the film’s release by touring the USA, doing extensive and often bizarre Q&A sessions to sold-out audiences around the country. I’m talking about the 2003 masterpiece of cult cinema, The Room.
The first thing that strikes you after this film is the notion that the creators must have put a lot of effort into getting everything just wrong – the set-pieces, the cinematography, the actors; everything about this film screams awful. Looking back at the previous films treated in this blog, each one has its own redeemable characteristic. With Battlefield Earth, it was the stunning CGI; Pluto Nash, the accidental B-movie sensibilities; Paris Hilton’s Whore-A-Thon, pretty people. The Room has none of these.
It’s hard to put into a genre, but at best we could call it a melodrama. It focuses on the life of a character called Johnny (Wiseau), who gets caught up in a love triangle with his fiancée, Lisa (or, as Johnny calls her in every other scene, his “future wife”, played by Juliette Danielle) and his best friend Mark (played by Greg Sestero). There are also a few subplots which are introduced and forgotten almost instantly, like the drug addiction of Johnny’s sort-of-surrogate-son Denny (Phillip Haldiman), and throwaway lines like “I got the test results back: I definitely have breast cancer.” The film ends with Johnny learning about Lisa’s affair, destroying his apartment in potentially the Best Worst Scene Ever Filmed, and shooting himself in the head.
In case you think that a plot like that could be done right (and if you do, you presumably have an overwhelming faith in stylistic conventions to save a film), nothing helps it. The biggest compliment probably goes to the cinematography, in that it doesn’t pull any bizarre angles and tries its hardest to integrate the repeated stock visuals into the overall scene structure. On the other hand, there’s an excruciating scene where we’re treated with the sight of Johnny’s horrifyingly muscular (and presumably steroid-enhanced) buttocks clenching as he has sex with Lisa (it’s worth noting that Juliette Danielle was 19 when The Room was filmed; if he isn’t lying about his age, he was 33 at the time) – a scene that is later repeated, gratuitously, shot for shot with hardly any variation. So there are problems there too.
There are some killer lines that make this film what it is: besides the aforementioned habit of referring to Lisa as his “future wife” whenever she’s brought up, he also reinforces the fact that Mark is “my best friend” around 30 times over the course of the film, and the infamous line “YOU’RE TEARING ME APART, LISA!” is so well-known by now that it has its own dubstep remix. There’s an exchange in a diner between Johnny and Mark, focusing initially on Johnny’s reluctance to talk because of supposed confidentiality; when he tries to dissipate this talk by saying “No, I can’t. Anyway, how is your sex life?” the mind boggles.
Integral to understanding The Room is to look at Wiseau both as an actor and director (though primarily as an actor, and if the latest reports are anything to go by, he didn’t exactly direct it). It’s harsh to say so, but the initial thing to point out is that he just looks weird – from the (hopefully) drug-enhanced muscles, to the straggly black hair, to a face that looks like it could only come out of years of heroin abuse, he’s the man who stands out in a cast of otherwise fairly normal-looking people. Then there’s his voice – he claims that he’s just “an American”, but he has an accent that’s impossible to pin down – there’s a hint of Eastern European, but you can’t really get much more specific than that. Having accepted this, it almost makes sense that Johnny is the only character that’s remotely believable; with the other actors, every line seems forced, just because it’s so syntactically strange.
There’s no way to comfortably summarise all of the mythology surrounding The Room in one short article, so I’ll end it here. But this might be the first film treated in this blog so far that can provoke nothing but delight at how fantastically terrible it is. Watch it, and you’ll see why it has so many fans. Chances are, you’ll join them.