(2003) director Tommy Wiseau
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever” so once wrote John Keats. The same can also sometimes be said about a piece of crap. In fact, as cult films go, there are many a piece of crap that is much beloved. The crowned prince of this type of adulation is the legendary film-maker Ed Wood, Jr. and his film Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) is oft-cited as the worst film ever made. Along these lines in more contemporary times, we have the film-maker Uwe Boll (frequently compared to Ed Wood — though really not quite up there for pure ineptitude). And very recently, there has even been a film dedicated to another much-beloved piece of garbage; Best Worst Movie is a documentary about the phenomenon of Troll 2 (1990), another truly bad film.
So, when I heard about The Room, I was intrigued. Released in 2003, the film became a midnight movie success in Los Angeles, inspiring devotional ironic tributes a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), in which audience members dress up as their favorite characters, recite favorite lines during the film, and toss footballs around.
The Room is a melodrama about a love triangle between Johnny, played by writer/director/producer/star Tommy Wiseau, his “future wife” Lisa, and his best friend, Mark. The film looks and feels even more low-budget than it was (Wiseau actually spent a lot of money on the movie and its promotion). It’s terribly written, directed, and acted, with Wiseau as the primary locus of the worst of the whole. His never-fully-opened eyelids, strange Teutonic-ish accent, and odd laconic delivery make for some of the film’s most outrageous badness.
The story is full of narrative hanging participles, story-lines that appear and then go nowhere (Lisa’s mom’s breast cancer, Wiseau’s “adopted” son Denny’s drug/money problems, even some characters altogether. There are many establishing shots of San Francisco, tourist images of the city (cable cars, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Ferry Building, the Golden Gate Bridge) that are interspersed between scenes at random and for no real purpose. And then every so often everybody wants to go out and throw the football around. And there are soft-core sex scenes set to slow jams with gauze, candles, and roses, which are quite often a little longer in duration than is rightly comfortable.
Like many of the “best worst movies”, this film is made in all seriousness (Wiseau promoted the film by comparing his work to Tennessee Williams). In fact, the film seems quite personal in many ways. Inept but personal. But on the DVD, Wiseau appears in a Q&A, responding to common comments about the film. His responses make the whole thing that much more strange, especially in that he now likes to say that the film was made intentionally to be funny, not accidentally.
And it’s bad. And it’s funny. And I’m glad I can scratch it off my list and now understand references to this pile of crap. But frankly, I’d take Ed Wood, Jr. any day over having to sit through this film again (though maybe in the right audience situation it could be funnier).