The Room is a terrible movie.
It’s developed something of a reputation as one of those movies that is called, variously, the worst movie ever, so bad it’s good, and the ultimate midnight movie, etc. It’s gained in popularity with late-night screenings that occasionally have the writer/director/producer/star Tommy Wiseau in attendance. It’s one of those bits of pop-culture ephemera that for some time I knew only by reputation and hadn’t bothered to consume. Recently, though, I had a few folks over to my place and, aided by various brain-killing beverages, we gave the movie a watch.
Most movies that are known for being terrible are known for their awful special effects and horribly contrived genre conventions. Plan 9 From Outer Space is emblematic of the kind of B movies that are traditionally known as the Worst Ever.
You get the idea- badly delivered lines clustered with cheesy sci-fi jargon, costumes that are impossible to take seriously, and storylines that reach for epic status and fall woefully short. That’s the traditional kind of Worst Movie Ever. The Room is not like that at all. The Room is more like this:
It’s like they only rented the flower shop for thirty seconds, and only did a single take.
The guy speaking, by the way, is Tommy Wiseau, the writer/director/producer/actor auteur behind The Room. He is like that in more or less every scene, and his line reads and terminally awkward demeanor are what make The Room a truly weird and awful movie. Here’s his most famous line:
The plot is mainly a love triangle between Johnny (Wiseau’s character), Lisa, and Johnny’s best friend Mark. Lisa is engaged to Johnny but has fallen out of love with him, and subsequently starts boning Mark because hey, why not. After that, bad things happen. There are a number of other plot lines as well- Lisa’s mother at one point reveals that she has breast cancer, and a friend of Johnny and Lisa’s apparently owes money to loan sharks because he has a drug problem. These plots never show up again. Not even in the scene they’re in. Take a look:
Did you see all that exposition? All that backstory? Did you catch that big dramatic reveal “I definitely have breast cancer”? That’s it. That’s the entirety of that storyline in The Room. None of that information is ever important ever again. Breast cancer floats in, says hi, and then is never heard from again for the entire run time. The same thing happens with drugs and loan sharks- stuff from which a whole plot can make just floats into a scene and then dissipates into nothing.
And then there’s the sex…
The Room is front-loaded with sex scenes, first between Johnny and Lisa and then between Mark and Lisa. Even with ample nudity, the sex scenes manage to be utterly and completely unsexy and completely devoid of anything that could be coherently construed as erotic. The sex scenes are set to hideous nineties R&B songs and lacy curtains hang from bedposts. Red candles flicker in the background, roses figure prominently, and it has a weird stilted softness that suggests Tommy Wiseau might not actually know how making the beast with two backs actually works. It’s as if he’s gotten all of his ideas about sex from soap operas, soft-core pornography, and romance novels. It’s all about as sexy as watching someone clack Barbie and Ken dolls into each other while playing Celine Dion in the background. Having my eyes and ears assaulted by Tommy Wiseau’s notion of strangled, plastic eroticism made me glad that I had a trusty bottle of Ninkasi nearby- the beer was far more physically pleasurable than anything going on in the film seemed to be.
The romantic relationships in the movie fall apart, dramatic shouting happens, and eventually there’s something like a climax and the movie’s over. It’s all terrible and bad and awful but, really I sort of enjoyed The Room.
It’s fun to watch because it is utterly singular. There are other bad movies out there, but they’re bad because of their production values or cliches or because they’re merely studio cash-cows. The Room, though, is bad because Tommy Wiseau doesn’t seem to really have a handle on how actual human beings talk, act, have sex, do things, or even buy flowers. He doesn’t seem to know how to act like any version of a convincing human being, and seems to live in a world slightly askew from ours. He may very well have some kind of mental disability (which would make me feel bad for laughing at him) but it’s sort of diverting to see the world from such a weird perspective.
The Room is not something that I’d recommend watching alone. Get some friends, stock up on beer, and prepare for an incoherent mess. It’s bad, sloppy, weird, and amateurish- but at least it’s also somewhat interesting. That’s more than you can say of a lot of films.