From 2012 onwards, before developing this blog, I wrote a multitude of reviews on the website Letterboxd. In this irregular series called From the Vault, I’m going to haul these earlier reviews out of mothballs and re-purpose them here.
This one is from August 30th, 2015…
Let me give you a piece of advice about The Room. Don’t watch it alone.
Not because it’s scary, though the fact this abomination of cinema ever got made is slightly terrifying. Rather because it needs to be experienced with a crowd, ideally of like minded people who understand it’s probably the worst film ever made, and yet appreciate and love it for that fact. This was my recent experience of Tommy Wiseau’s romantic drama (though it’s very little of either) and it was glorious.
In a packed cinema of enthusiasts, we whooped and cheered at everything Wiseau throws at us – terrible lines, scenes with no direction, characters with no discernible dramatic arc, other characters who appear out of nowhere and disappear, transitions that last forever of the San Francisco skyline, and easily the worst protracted sex scenes ever committed to celluloid. The result was, easily, one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences in recent memory. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “it’s so bad, it’s good” then The Room is the apex of that philosophy.
Take it as a comedy, you’ll have the greatest time ever.
Objectively of course it’s beyond terrible. The plot–for want of a better, more accurate word–breaks down something like this.
Wiseau plays Johnny, a banker (or perhaps in computers) on the verge of a promotion who loves Lisa (Juliette Danielle), only she becomes bored of his caring intentions & embarks on an affair with Johnny’s best friend Mark (Greg Sestero – also the line producer!), who at times seems reluctant but often doesn’t give a fuck about his mate. That’s the primary narrative but other, often bizarre & non sequitur strands float around it. Johnny’s sort of adopted, sort of not young lad Denny (Philip Haldiman) goes from being Johnny’s friend to wanting to watch he & Lisa have sex, and mostly just arrives only to leave seconds later. Lisa’s mother Claudette (Carolyn Minnott) is dying of breast cancer but only mentions it offhandedly once & primarily just spends the film nagging her daughter. A variety of other incidental performers pop in and out, some with no plot function & zero introduction. Storylines often go nowhere, indeed the main plot is so weirdly circular it takes the entire running time to reach a bizarrely overwrought conclusion. It’s breathtaking, however, in two ways.
Firstly, let’s consider how badly written the whole thing is. You can’t call this a screenplay in any traditional sense of the word. In almost every scene, characters say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to each other, for a start, in what you could generously characterise as naturalism but in reality is just child-like understanding of drama. Wiseau, who wrote the film alongside directing & producing, has no comprehension of dramatic tension in any way, nor does he understand character or hold in any way to consistency; his characters forget key things, change their views & opinions sometimes in the same scene, and generally act with such remarkable confusion you’re often left baffled.
The acting, granted, is ridiculous, but Wiseau’s belief that melodrama is the tool to extracting tension, and his belief that long, drawn out soft-focus sex scenes are the manner to convey expressions of love are laughable. His direction equally, is absurd; he has the longest transitions between scenes you’ll ever see, while his camera moves erratically & often without grace, picking up on truly mad incidental factors. My favourite is how repeatedly in the background are picture frames which he seemingly forgot to replace with genuine family snaps, and which instead show lots of spoons. This, along with the second remarkable factor, is why you have to laugh at The Room – Wiseau’s acting. It, simply, has to be seen to be believed. If you don’t laugh at this, you may cry.
One of the funniest factors, among the truly bizarre story of how The Room came to be, is how Tommy Wiseau has since tried to retrospectively class this as a ‘black comedy’. No. Even the comic geniuses of our age would struggle to intentionally create a film so utterly without merit in almost any shape or form, with a child-like script, terrible acting, a laughable story, awful direction – not even the title makes sense! That, however, has turned out to be the point. Once The Room was lifted from obscurity, it gained a strong cult following among film fans who enjoy a sense of deep, unintentional comedy and the simple fact is, Wiseau’s film elicited more laughter and joy in one cinema showing than you get in a dozen stock, formulaic comedies.
No one could ever deny The Room is a shockingly bad film. Yet equally, if you can see past that & enjoy it’s flaws, it’s among the best you’ll have the pleasure to watch… but anyway, how’s your sex life?