Chronicling Tommy Wiseau’s misguided attempts to make a movie, James Franco’s The Disaster Artist brought The Room to the attentions of mainstream audiences. The film, aka cinema’s worst ever movie, has transcended the screen to become an oddly celebrated piece of cinematic history. Leah Wimpenny, a self-confessed devotee of Team Wiseau, argues why it’s a misunderstood masterpiece.
The Room is the Marmite of modern cinema. 15 years since its release, Tommy Wiseau’s “hit”, or flop as it is much better known, keeps cropping up in conversation.
There is no denying it, The Room is absolutely dreadful. That being said, there is something about it that continues to keep me hooked every time I watch it, for better or worse, I always find myself in stitches at the film that set out to be a romantic tragedy but ended up being a cult phenomenon for every single wrong reason imaginable.
First of all, nobody can prepare you for just how bad The Room really is. The storyline makes no sense for starters, filled with overly long sex scenes, accompanied by cheesy songs and red roses, stock images of spoons in every other scene and a moment of gun violence that literally is a moment never to be spoken of again. The direction is inconsistent, the acting amateurish to say the least, and the script is honestly horrendous.
Somehow though, all that teamed together with Wiseau’s remarkable dedication to create an exceptional piece of independent cinema, is something everyone should give an hour and half of their time too. It’s a laughing stock but there’s an uncanny appreciation between screen and audience. Fans actually take spoons to cinema screenings and throw them in honour of its makeshift set design. It makes for a film that is so bizarrely different to literally any other.
The plot surrounds successful banker Johnny (Wiseau) and his fiancée Lisa (Juliette Danielle). After getting bored of the relationship’s mundane stability, Lisa decides to have an affair with Tommy’s best friend Mark (Greg Sestero), which leads to a sad ending for everyone involved.
Some other characters make an appearance but their purpose is never really explored. Two of Lisa’s friends often make use of Johnny’s couch because for some reason the door is always open, and of course there is Denny (Phillip Haldiman); Denny is a prime example of The Room’s complete oddball nature, nobody is 100% sure who he is, why he is there, or what he brings to the story, besides cringe and confusion. He is somehow almost Johnny’s son, but in other scenes declares his love for Lisa, by association his sort of mother; it’s all very bizarre but brilliantly funny. Also, the title The Room seems very misplaced. Allegedly, Wiseau thought it would evoke a safe feeling to viewers but beyond that there is little, if any, context.
If you want to get an understanding of just how poorly thought of The Room is in critical sectors, Sestero (Mark) reported that Wiseau submitted the film to Paramount, who usually offer a two-week response time as a distributor. The Room was rejected within 24 hours, and later distributed by Wiseau-Films; if there’s a will there’s a way.
From black sheep to misunderstood masterpiece
Perhaps the real wonder behind The Room lies in Wiseau himself, a man that literally nobody knows anything about. His age is unknown, his birth place is unknown (a thick Eastern-European accident dictates that the New Orleans origins he tells everyone might be a little fib), and how he managed to stumble on enough money to make a multimillion pound movie is unknown. If you thought the storyline of The Room was an enigma, try looking into the man behind the madness.
To me, The Room is a misunderstood masterpiece, an autobiographical depiction of Tommy Wiseau’s experiences in a world that forever judged him and told him he wouldn’t be good enough for the big screen. He did make it to the big screen though, and although he unintentionally turned his vision into a cinematic shambles, the world went crazy for it. Wiseau is living proof that your dreams can at least become something memorable if nothing else.
Comedy gold lines such as “You’re tearing me apart Lisa,” and “Oh, Hi Mark,” cause an uproar of laughing fits for fans everywhere, with audience participation screenings being a popular choice. The creator of this oddity is even known to turn up at a few of these events himself to meet his beloved fans.
The Room is an incredibly difficult film to describe because by all notions of cinematic critique, it honestly is horrific. It fails as a film, but unlike other failures, it fails so spectacularly that it becomes something almost admirable.
Over time, my feelings towards The Room changed. At first I wasn’t sure I could ever be convinced to watch it again, but second time round (and I hate to admit I have seen it more than a good handful of times since) I began to empathise with Johnny, and more so Wiseau. You grow to admire his serious attempt to make his dreams come true, even if they don’t come true in the way he intended.
The film, I am certain, is not what the director, writer, producer and star wanted it to be when he first came up with the script, but from the very first scene, where his name appears three times in the opening credits, you can just tell how much he really wanted this to go well. Hats off to you Tommy for sticking to it.
An addictive, unique experience
If you’re going to give The Room a try, which I recommend you do, be prepared for something unique, something that you need to stick at, for better or worse. At least you can say you’ve seen it. The film has become – in part because of James Franco’s The Disaster Artist – a piece of cinema culture that will forever divide opinion. Find out which side of the fence you stand on; it is very much a love-hate relationship.
2017’s The Disaster Artist, a biographical comedy based on Wiseau’s filmmaking adventure, sees Dave Franco play Greg/Mark and James Franco play Johnny/Tommy. It is a must see once you’ve witness the true spectacle that is, The Room. If you want to at least try and get some context of Wiseau and his cinematic art creation, this is your best bet.
The recreation of The Room, shows exactly how it was made from the early days of friendship to the hardships of movie-making and it might just change your perspective on the film entirely. Plus James Franco does an incredible job at portraying one of the most little known actors to date.
There is nothing to lose by giving The Room a try, even if you really think you’ll hate it. I guarantee you’ll find yourself laughing, even if sadly laughing was not the reaction Tommy Wiseau tried so hard to create.