I watch a lot of crappy films — it’s a hobby of mine. I always have an ear open listening for buzz on the worst films ever made. I figure that if I watch a lot of awful films and can determine why they’re bad, I could not only appreciate good films even more, but learn from the mistakes of others while writing my own unfinished manuscripts. (Writing unfinished works is also another hobby of mine.)
Through my hobby, I rarely come across a bad film that genuinely fits the mold of “so bad it’s good.” Most truly bad movies are extremely boring or so incompetently made that it’s hard to watch without daydreaming of doing something else or just shutting it off outright. However, once in awhile you find a bad film that requires no additional commentary to be hilarious or revelatory. The film’s plot has enough going on to keep your interest and the earnest ineptitude of every frame makes you want to see how the horrible train wreck ends (usually in a massive explosion with lots of screaming), making it both heinous and gripping. Rarely does one see a terrible movie that is so bad that they actually want to suggest it to friends. Those films are true gems worthy of praise.
The Room is such a film.
The Room has an extremely basic plot that gets needlessly complicated (more on that later). The film’s story follows our protagonist Johnny (played by The Room‘s writer/director/producer Tommy Wiseau) as he goes about his days, being a good guy and a loving fiancé to Lisa (Juliette Danielle). Unbeknownst to Gary Stu — er, I mean, Johnny — Lisa is a cold-hearted succubus who cheated on him with his lantern-jawed, Kenny Loggins look-alike best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero). Lisa ultimately decides to have the best of both worlds by keeping her stable, “successful banker” boyfriend Johnny, but having a wild, passionate sex life by continuing to sport fuck his best friend behind his back. To keep this charade going, she lies upon lies and drags this whole thing out as long as she can. Shenanigans ensue.
Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this review, I would like to say that if one were to make a movie that depended on a no-nonsense femme fatale to carry it, the filmmaker should at the very least try to cast a woman who aesthetically fills that role. Some time-tested attributes may include (but are not limited to) sharply arching eyebrows, a curvaceous figure, having an air of confidence and being extremely beautiful. Now I’m not going to say that the woman who plays Lisa is unattractive — beauty is subjective, after all — but if she’s going to pass as a conspiratorial, evil temptress with sex and murder on the brain, she shouldn’t look like the office secretary who keeps refusing to go to her coworkers’ after-work parties because she has to get home early to take care of her cats, Mittens and Tum-Tum.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the main reasons for The Room‘s spectacularly awesome failure as a film.
The Room adds depth and weight (i.e., convolution and filler material) to the general plot by sprinkling many mini-plots throughout the narrative that turn out to be complete cul-de-sacs. For example, at one point in the film, the college-aged neighbor and friend to everyone, Denny (Philip Haldiman), is revealed to be — bum, bum, BUMMM! — into drugs! After a few minutes of tearful hugs and talks, the plot thread is set up and resolved (I guess?) within about ten minutes of total screen time without ever making an impact on the main story.
Perhaps The Room‘s best instance of the go-nowhere side stories is the infamous breast cancer line. Yes, I said “line.” The plot of Lisa’s mother being diagnosed with breast cancer is introduced with a single line of dialogue without another mention of it for the entire film.
Since it didn’t contribute to the main narrative, provide character depth or even have a resolution, why was this even brought up? Perhaps Mr. Wiseau was going for verisimilitude…? I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. But while these plethora of subplots would ruin a good film, they keep a bad film interesting. Honestly, the hardest part in watching a bad film is preventing boredom from setting in, and The Room succeeds in holding your attention. (Bad filmmakers, take note!)
Now while any bad film can be convoluted and messy with plot holes galore, The Room is truly special because of the acting. Across the board, everyone gives a performance that could best be described as “distant,” with every line uttered so monotone that you’d swear that they’re trying to form their words on the spot by reading alphabet refrigerator magnets. Due to the inexperienced actors being unable to emote properly for the “dramatic” scenes, most of the film feels like you’re watching aliens trying to put on a teleplay based on observed human behavior. If stiff acting is usually referred to as wooden, then this is concrete. But nothing compares to the main man himself, Mr. Tommy Wiseau.
The unique qualities that Mr. Wiseau brings to the table is his indiscernible European accent and his sleepy performance. His voice could be described as the result of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Isabella Rossellini having a baby on quaaludes. His accent is so oddly absurd and his mannerisms so aloof that you’ll find yourself uncontrollably imitating/laughing at him during the film and well after it’s over. He generally coasts through The Room with a sedated performance and thousand yard stare, but then he’ll seemingly randomly interrupt himself when he remembers that he’s supposed to be angry for a scene, so he increases his volume and pumps his arms petulantly. Mr. Wiseau finally answers the question, “What happens when a laid back European filled with indifference is forced to express emotions that require over-the-top, American soap opera-styled hammy acting?” Hilariously, the answer is this:
If I had to single only one thing out of The Room, I would say the best parts of the film are the sex scenes, but not for the reasons that you may think. I don’t enjoy them for their titillation or passion, but for their complete lack of titillation and passion. Every sexual encounter between the characters is like watching a college student’s rejected demo reel for applying to be the director of a basement-budget, soft-core skin flick that you’d find on Cinemax’s After Dark. The fact that Wiseau fails at even aspiring for the lowly goal of making a Zalman King-produced sex scene rip-off is hilarious and sad in ways I never knew existed. (In the pantheon of off-putting cinematic sex, Johnny and Lisa’s non-penetrative porking is somewhere above Bloodrayne‘s overly gratuitous, out-of-nowhere fuckfest, but below Monica Bellucci’s 15 minute rape scene in Irréversible.) The funniest sex-related moment in The Room comes after the most cringe-worthy display of foreplay ever committed to film, where Johnny awkwardly dry humps what would be Lisa’s navel, which makes one wonder if he even knows how men are anatomically different from women. Then again, Johnny’s lack of knowledge about female physiology would give motivation for Lisa to cheat on him with his best friend, so… maybe it’s character development,… I guess?
I’ve gone on long enough talking about this film, but I could actually keep going. This film’s likability is so far above what most consider a “so bad, it’s good” film, that it’s hard not to recommend it. Thank God the fine fellows over at Rifftrax released a rifftrack for the film, and I’m pleased to say that it’s one of the funniest ones they’ve made, making this film even better/worse. Honestly, for connoisseurs of bad films, The Room is required viewing… and should be taught in film schools.
If you love bad films, you owe it to yourself to watch The Room — it’ll change your life.
Not knowing what you’re getting into: 1/10
Knowing what you’re getting into: 9/10
P.S. Oh, hi Rifftrax sample! (Contains spoilers)