The Beautiful Mess That Is 'The Room'
A Movie So Perfect in Its Awfulness
It was recently suggested to me that I start my own YouTube channel reviewing movies. A) My voice isn't that annoying* and B) I would sooner gush over movies I love and elaborate on what makes them work rather than tear down the passion projects of people at the other end of the spectrum. I would like to treat other movies the same way I would like anything that I've written, or will write, to be treated.
There is one bad movie I love to talk about at great length, although I almost don't want to now because dunking on it is like picking low-hanging fruit. I will anyway because there's something so fascinating to it that I don't think a lot of people pick up on. I don't want to rag on writer/director/producer Tommy Wiseau because apparently he's a really friendly guy and, again, I want to treat my peers the same way I expect to be treated. However, being a creative type, criticism inevitably comes with the territory. So let's do this.
The Room is bad. Like, really bad. If you've only seen it through clips on YouTube then you haven't the faintest idea of how truly bad it is. If you've only seen it through the retelling of its conception through The Disaster Artist, you're close, but it still falls utterly short of just how awful it is. It is the perfect storm of bad movies, famously referred to as the Citizen Kane of its ilk. It is horrendously bad... and yet I love it.
Now, there are plenty of bad movies out there, but what makes The Room exceptional is that it fell into a nice, little crucible. When it was released, it was as the internet, file-sharing, and social media were ramping up their game, so it could be shared and talked about at an unprecedented rate.
A lot of "So bad they're good" movies just don't share the same qualities as The Room. While it is bad at almost everything it does, it's entertainingly bad, and I think that's the quality that goes most overlooked. You won't be bored as there are plenty of moments that will make you go, "Did he really just say that?" or, "How does this fit into the main story?" or, "Is there a main story?" or, "Another football scene?"
Whereas most bad movies will drone on or drag out a scene simply because they don't know what they're doing, a"So bad they're good" movie should be like a bad pun or a joke in a Christmas cracker in that it doesn't set our expectations too high (if at all) and we all get to join in as a group in having a laugh at it. It's not controversial, no one is singled out or excluded, and if only for one fleeting moment we, the audience, are all on the same page.
Another thing that sets it apart is the mythos behind it. If you try to find anything out about The Room, you'll find it'll raise more questions than it answers: Why did the movie cost $6 million when it's just a bunch of people standing around and having awkward sex? Where does Tommy come from? How old is he? Where did he get the money from? etc. etc.
He's very secretive about such things, which only further adds to the fascination around him. I'm not sure why Wiseau is so sheepish when it comes to how The Room was supposed to be intended. It was written as a romantic drama, but since it was received by viewers and critics alike, Wiseau has touted it as a black comedy—which it clearly isn't. Sure, it's funny, but not for the same reasons that an actual black comedy aims for. Maybe he's cushioning his ego?
I mentioned at the beginning that I only wanted to talk about what makes movies work and, in all fairness, that's another space where The Room shines because it actually shows what DOESN'T make movies work. If you watch it for yourself you can see how not to frame shots, how not to introduce plot twists into your story, or how to fail in something so simple as costume design. In his own weird way, Tommy Wiseau has contributed to the craft of movie making.
While The Room may have been his magnum opus, it was by no means Wiseau's first and last movie. In the time since, he has written, produced, directed, and starred in movies like Samurai Cop 2, Best F(r)iends Vol. 1 & 2, Car Botz, Big Shark, and even a documentary short on homelessness in America, though none of these have captured the same spark that ignited the chemical fire that was The Room. Much like the man himself, I suspect the reason for this may be puzzled out for years to come. Maybe it was all a wonderful fluke, maybe the one-trick pony shtick got old in a hurry, who knows? All I know is that The Room is the absolute authority on "So bad they're good" movies and we'll probably never see anything like it ever again. Tommy Wiseau had a vision on how he wanted to tell stories, and while they may not be deemed particularly good, he went out and made them happen and what's more is that they're his.
*though it probably is.