What's In "The Room"?
Humans are pretty weird. We tend to love things that may be bad for our sanity but good for our own personal high. Some people overindulge in shopping, eating, or whatever vices they can get their hands on. Some people take out their anger on social media even when they're grasping at straws. Then people like me, or probably you, just can't get enough of ridiculously bad movies. Some movies are just so bizarre, they become so good. By movies, I'm talking about only one film in mind: The Room.
But first, I'll give you a background. The Room is intended to be an "American tragedy" of sorts about friendship and infidelity in the heart of San Francisco. It tells the tale of banker Johnny (director, writer, and producer Tommy Wiseau). He lives the American dream–he's due for promotion, took the orphan Denny (Philip Haldiman) under his care, and is engaged to his beautiful "future wife" Lisa (Juliette Danielle). But what he doesn't know is Lisa is cheating on Mark (line producer Greg Sestero), the best friend Johnny is "lucky to have". Along with multiple subplots that never get solved, repetitive conversations, and infamous exchanges, everything goes downhill. Considering he's the mastermind behind it all, this is the mysterious Tommy Wiseau's vanity project to prove his passion and (lack of) talent for film.
Critics called it "the worst movie ever made", yet over the years, it brought in more people watching than slightly-better made mediocre films. At first glance, the poster creeped me out so much and gave me the impression that this is shoddily made. Surprise, it is badly made. The low-rate typography and night green filter would make you think that this is low budget horror.
It wasn't until years later that Greg Sestero and journalist / The Room fan Tom Bissell wrote a book together called The Disaster Artist, a "prequel" of sorts to the film. The book was more than just behind-the-scenes anecdotes. It also talked about Tommy, his enigmatic behavior, and his relationship with Greg which since they took that SF-based acting class in 1998. (The book is available in both print, digital, and MP3 through Amazon.) I didn't know about this until years later, when a trailer for the film based on the book was released.
Immediately, the teaser trailer caught my attention. TL;DW: It took 67 takes to get the infamous "O Hai Mark!" scene. After watching this, I was so fascinated with the context behind this scene, I watched the movie as soon as I could. Then, I listened to The Disaster Artist audiobook, which to say is the best way to experience it. Greg does a killer impression of Tommy, it's as if Tommy was there to do his quotes in the book.
But before I go on and on, here are just some fascinating details and hilarious goofs The Room is known for:
- Thank Tommy for the shots of Golden Gate and Alcatraz–I didn't know the story was set in San Francisco!
- Writing is as bizarre as it can get. This goes with both stories and characters. The exchanges of dialogue are more awkward than a Tinder chat that ended two days after it started. Johnny's adopted son of sorts, Denny, is possibly the weirdest man in existence. When Johnny and Lisa told him they were gonna "take a nap", Denny walks right in on them and joins the pillow fight foreplay. Then in another scene, right after he compliments Lisa's appearance, he immediately asks, "Can I kiss you?" Take note that he already knew how much Johnny loved Lisa. To make it even more hilarious, he admits his feelings towards Lisa to Johnny, and Johnny's response was... unusual for someone who just admitted his feelings for someone else's SO.
- This is still about the writing, but this one is so weird it warrants is own space. Mundane scenes such as Johnny buying "a dozen red roses" or going out for coffee with Mark are some surreal scenes. In the flower shop, the florist was surprised enough to say "Oh hi Johnny, I didn't know it was you," even when she later says "You're my favorite customer." (Add in the bonus "Hi, Doggy!"). Then later in the coffee shop, when Mark asks Johnny about specific work details, Johnny tells him "I cannot tell you, it's confidential. Anyway, how's your sex life?" Only in the Wiseau world is a client a heavier secret than bedroom nasties.
- There is so much going on in the film, so we might forget the main fact that Lisa is cheating on Mark. So how do we remember this? Have her talk to her mom Claudette for 4 times in the film over the same topic, which goes:
Lisa: Mom, I don't love Johnny anymore.
Claudette: But Johnny is a good man! He takes care of us with his $$$$.
Lisa: Mom, I'm in love with someone else.
Claudette: Don't you dare–
And the only time we even get a topic between the two of them that isn't Lisa cheating on Johnny:
Claudette: I got the results of the test back. I definitely have breast cancer.
We never got closure until Tommy himself said in a Reddit AMA that Claudette survives. Whew.
- Here, I'm gonna rave about the best thing this film brought: Chris R. He's played by the only non-actor in this entire film, Dan Janjigan. But somehow, it's him who was convincing enough to play a scary drug dealer threatening Denny for money. Apparently Dan Janjigan was in character so deeply, Tommy was scared of him in between takes. Now to the bad thing: just look at the very bad chroma keying showing inconsistency with lighting. Funny enough, Tommy owned a rooftop that looked exactly like that one. But still, he decided to shoot on a green screen set because it is "not a Mickey Mouse production".
- The Room's obsession with football made the ball as the film's symbol (along with spoons). Apparently Tommy stereotyped Americans as always having footballs around with them so they can play around as much as they like. Football tosses happen during even the most serious conversations. In one unexplained scene, they start throwing footballs in tuxedos! It was never explained why they were in tuxes either. Some of the football games end in either Mike or Michael falling or tripping on the floor without any cause or impact as to why they do so.
- "I did not hit her, it's not true, it's bullshit! I did not hit her, I did not... Oh hi Mark." Other than this glorious line and that emotional water bottle throw, this scene is The Room in a nutshell. The conversation is pretty normal, save for a couple of quotes. First, there's that opening talking about Johnny hitting on Lisa when it's never shown that Johnny hit Lisa or even them arguing about it. Then, Mark brings up how his female friend gets caught cheating and ends up in a hospital at Guerrero Street. (In reality, there is no hospital at Guerrero Street.) Without a beat, Johnny laughs and says "Ha ha, what a story Mark!" As if domestic abuse was a laughing matter. I can go on a discourse of how misogynistic The Room can get with their portrayal of women, but that's for another day. Even when this part that was writtten in the script was called out by script supervisor Sandy Schklair, Greg, and other crew members, it stayed in the film.
When you think of "worst film ever", our first memo in our brain is "avoid wasting your time with this shit". But not with The Room, no. In fact, if you're given the chance to it, take it right away! Watching it is an experience that will leave you wanting to repeat it over and over again. My suggestion is to watch it privately or with 2-3 friends at first, as midnight screenings tend to get rowdy with plastic spoons and footballs. It's only after then that you take any chance to watch a midnight screening, with participation and all. Knowing how loud these can get, I say it's better to get the gist of The Room first so you can appreciate the weird story first. After you watch it privately and at a midnight screening, take your time to read or listen to The Disaster Artist. (I prefer listening as it's more immersive and it's an experience of its own.) Once you've checked each of these off, go to your nearest movie theater and watch The Disaster Artist with James and Dave Franco as Tommy and Greg!