Directed, produced, written by, and starring the legendary Tommy Wiseau, The Room has garnered cult film status with a loyal following that both hates and loves Wiseau’s work. I was first introduced to this odd creation in 2014 when a close friend suggested we play The Room drinking game. When I asked what that meant, her eyes widened, and her jaw dropped. I could see the excitement on her face as she replied “I’ve never showed you The Room? It’s been such a huge part of my life, I can’t believe we haven’t watched it together”. For the next hour and forty minutes, I was extremely uncomfortable watching what happened on the screen…albeit, extremely entertained. This movie is an absolute mess. So, why do people love it so much?
Little is known about Wiseau’s background. Many reports have gone unconfirmed, and many questions he refuses to answer. All that is known for certain is the background of the film, which is just as weird as the film itself. First written as a play in 2001 and then adapted as a novel that was never published, Wiseau took matters into his own hands and made the attempt to adapt his work into film. By being the director, producer, star, and the financier of the film (side note: he has been very tight lipped about where he found the $6 million to make this film, but he insists that he funded it in part by importing Korean jackets to the United States), Wiseau maintained total control throughout the making of The Room. The film is an extension of himself. So, when Tom Bissell, co-author of The Disaster Artist (the book. Not the Franco movie), says “It is like a movie made by an alien who has never seen a movie, but has had movies thoroughly explained to him”, Tommy Wiseau is that alien. Indeed, after learning more about Wiseau and his mannerisms, and after seeing The Room a dozen times, alien-like is exactly how I would both describe the film and the film’s creator. The official synopsis of the film would be as follows: set in San Francisco, The Room draws its influence from specific incidents of Wiseau’s own life. Johnny, played by Wiseau, is a successful banker who lives with his fiancée, Lisa. Lisa has become unfulfilled in her relationship to Johnny and begins an affair with his best friend, Mark. Drama ensues. That’s the entire premise of The Room which, by the way, is filmed in more than just one room.
Here is my unofficial synopsis of the film: a lot of random things happen for no clear reason, with no clear purpose, and at the most inappropriate times. The dialogue doesn’t make any sense, and the characters behave incoherently. The plot itself has no linear direction. The only real consistency is that Lisa complains repeatedly that she isn’t happy with Johnny, and the people she complains to reply by praising him. Otherwise, the rest of the film consists of excruciatingly long sex scenes involving roses and drapery, 30 second subplots that are never referred to again, repeated San Fran imagery, and some intensely awkward dialogue. The entire viewing experience is uncomfortable, but it is so worth it.
After estimating that he has seen The Room “at least 3 times a year since 2010”, self-proclaimed cult movie fan Brian Kilner recently sat down with me and explained why Wiseau’s disaster of a movie has people absolutely obsessed with it.
“There is a difference between something that is bad and something that is so bad that it is entertaining. So, just off the top of my head, the song Barbie Girl or Rebecca Black’s Friday. These are probably two of the worst songs I can think of, and yet people still sing them. People will still dance when it comes on. More in line with what we are talking about here, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is, objectively speaking, just a really bad film. But people absolutely love it. Every year on Halloween thousands of people will dress up as their favourite characters of that shit-show of a musical and view midnight screenings of it. We even do that here in Wolfville. It’s the same thing for The Room. It’s so bad that it’s awesome and, like Rocky Horror, there is a cult following. We know it’s a piece of garbage, don’t get me wrong. But it’s such a mess that you have to laugh at it. It’s one of a kind.”
With James Franco’s recent film The Disaster Artist hitting the big screen, based on a book by the same name which gives us a behind the scenes look at the making of The Room, Wiseau’s masterpiece has been generating more buzz than ever. Do me, yourself, and Tommy Wiseau a favour and watch The Room before even thinking about seeing The Disaster Artist. It will be the best worst cinematic decision you will ever make.