The Room (2003) starring, written and directed by Tommy Wiseau
What’s it about?
Tommy Wiseau plays Johnny, a San Francisco resident who is in love with his fiancée, Lisa (Juliette Danielle). However, Lisa confesses to her mother (Carolyn Minnott) that she doesn’t love him anymore. Her mother advises against leaving him because he provides her with the financial security she needs.
Lisa is in love with Johnny’s best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero), and regularly invites him round to “talk”. She then makes moves on him and, despite his initial protestations that he doesn’t want to betray his friend, he ends up sleeping with her. As the film goes on her mother and more of her and Johnny’s circle of friends find out about her cheating, and urge her to be honest with her smitten fiancée - before he finds out about it himself.
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Why is it significant?
“You’re tearing me apaaaart, Lisa!”
What is there to say about The Room that hasn’t been said before? It’s the ultimate bad movie, the polar inverse of quality filmmaking. It’s like someone distilled the essence of how not to make a film and then put it up on screen for the world to see. It’s not so much “so bad it’s good” as “so bad it transcends any rational metrics of cinematic quality and becomes an absolute masterpiece of unintended hilarity”. It has won its own unique cult niche with screenings attended by Wiseau himself for Q & A sessions, and some unique audience participation exercises involving throwing plastic spoons at the screen and hurling around an inflatable football.
The film and Wiseau have recently been made the subject of a biopic called The Disaster Artist, directed by and starring James Franco, which is being released in UK cinemas on 6th December 2017.
What, in specific, is wrong with it?
Ok, I will answer this without giving the obvious but short answer of “everything”.
Well, let’s start with the “plot” (such as it is). It’s basically a standard soap opera sub-plot that barely warrants half an hour of screen time, but is padded out to over 90 minutes with a lot of superfluous and repetitive material. Thus, we get:
- Dreadfully-staged soft-core bonking interludes that seemingly go on forever (accompanied by a piece of bland cocktail bar music with the lyrics “You are my rose, you are my rose you are my rose”).
- Lots of scenes of Lisa telling her mother or best girlfriend that she doesn’t love Johnny followed by them advising her to be honest with him.
- Numerous sequences involving Johnny and other characters throwing an American football to each other for some unknown reason.
- Pointless establishing shots panning across the length of the Golden Gate Bridge.
- A coffee shop scene that begins with four different extras ordering food at the counter before we even start with an only marginally less purposeless exchange of dialogue between Johnny and Mark.
As a result of all of this time-wasting, The Room would have been an excruciatingly boring film if it weren’t for the fact that in terms of filmmaking, acting and writing it goes so spectacularly pear-shaped.
Now - what the hell is up with Tommy Wiseau? Just look at him! He speaks like Hans Gruber on a cocktail of misused prescription drugs and looks like a hench-villain in a bad Die Hard rip-off. I spent the film wondering when he might pull an Uzi from under his jacket. His performance is so ridiculously bad that he can’t even pull off laughter properly (he literally smiles and says “ha ha ha”). He can’t even do a chicken impersonation convincingly (and yes, he tries to more than once during the course of the film), something that even a primary school kid can achieve.
Juliette Danielle as Lisa is marginally better, but only because she is merely blandly wooden rather than a spectacular onscreen acting train wreck à la Wiseau. While it’s hard to believe she would be with such a downright creepy guy in the first place, it’s not a lot easier to believe that this robotically manipulative, chipmunk-faced specimen of womankind could get not only him, but also the hunky Mark, so utterly wrapped around her little finger.
Mark himself? Greg Sestero is another blandly wooden actor and his character is colourlessly dull. There is no convincing glue that binds this love triangle scenario together or gives us any clue as to how they met each other in the first place, so the whole dynamic between them falls hopelessly flat.
Lisa’s mother is basically just a cipher to impart a more experienced viewpoint onto her daughter. The film promises to throw in a subplot as she reveals she has been confirmed to have breast cancer. However, Lisa just brushes it off by cheerily reassuring her that everything will be fine. The matter is never brought up again during the film’s runtime.
This is just one of many examples of how the film totally fails to have any feel for how people respond to onscreen events or in conversations. In another scene Johnny comes home telling Lisa that he didn’t get his promotion. Lisa responds with “You didn’t get it, did you?” Duh - that’s what he just said? Such is the inability of the onscreen characters to process very obvious things others have just said or done that it is clear they are cognitively impaired in some fundamental way. How do these idiots go about functioning in their daily lives? Most of the dialog exchanges are just standard alternate over-shoulder shots, so they could plausibly have been cobbled together from footage shot of separate conversations involving the same actors on the same sets. Indeed, I suspect this is the reason for this signature disjointed feel.
We get Denny, a rather strange adolescent boy whose presence in the film is rather pointless (as with other secondary characters in the film) and in somewhat questionable taste - he is in love with Lisa and asks her and Johnny if he can watch them have sex. Seriously. There is a subplot later in which he is threatened by a drug dealer who he owes money to, but as with the above “breast cancer” subplot it is soon forgotten about. Philip Haldiman looks a bit like a young Leonardo Di Caprio, minus the acting talent.
Michelle (Robyn Paris) and Mike (Scott Holmes) are two others in their circle of friends who bring little else to the story apart from two truly terrible performances. They are introduced via a supposed “sexy” scene involving chocolates (don’t ask). Michelle only serves to be there to advise Lisa to be honest with Johnny about her affair (something that Lisa’s mother is already doing time and time again during the film) while wearing an incongruously cheesy grin the whole time. Mike’s role is even more superfluous, and as portrayed by Scott Holmes his acting range seems to be limited to pulling chimpanzee-like faces.
As if all of these other pointless extra characters weighing down this cinematic sinking ship weren’t enough, we also get a psychiatrist who appears to be working with both Johnny and Mark. His advice doesn’t seem to extend beyond obvious statements such as “life’s complicated” and “you’ve got to sort yourself out”. Some help he is!
As hard as I have tried, I have only barely begun to convey what a supreme dump taken on film stock this is. The only way to do that would be to witness it with your own eyes. And witness it you must. Bow down in awe and reverence at its pure unfettered awfulness!
Runtime: 99 mins
Dir: Tommy Wiseau
Script: Tommy Wiseau
Starring: Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero, Philip Haldiman, Carolyn Minnott, Robyn Paris, Scott Holmes, Dan Janjigian
Rating: No Stars (or ☆☆☆☆☆ depending on your viewpoint)