The Room

Movie Information

The Room will be shown Monday, Dec. 21, at 9 p.m. at BoBo Gallery, 22 Lexington Ave., Asheville.
Score:

Genre: Drama (maybe)
Director: Tommy Wiseau
Starring: Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero, Philip Haldiman
Rated: R

It was inevitable that someone would bring Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003) to town. After all, this is the current cause célèbre in the realm of bad cinema—a film so spectacularly awful and inept that it exerts a perverse fascination over the viewer, along with a fair share of unintentional laughs. Here is a movie so utterly incomprehensible that the IMDb threw in the towel on their movies you might enjoy if you liked The Room and came up with Buffalo 66, Gone with the Wind, Freeway and The Assassination of Richard Nixon as suggestions. Even by the often peculiar reasoning of the IMDb, this is an extreme mix. The only thing these movies have in common is that they’re all better than The Room. That, however, could be said of 30 to 40,000 other movies.

I first heard about The Room several months ago from fellow critic Luke Y. Thompson, who had just had “The Tommy Wiseau Experience” for himself—and was obviously still trying to believe the reality of it. Wiseau is the writer-director-star of this thing, and he has to be seen—and heard—to be believed. (Even then you may well believe he’s some kind of CGI effect gone wrong.) Wiseau is an unattractive fellow who maximizes his unattractiveness by insisting on sporting about two feet of matted black hair. Nicolas Cage has more believable wigs than this, and this is apparently real. Then there’s Wiseau’s accent, which can best be described as sounding like someone with a speech impediment attempting an Udo Kier impression. That he follows almost every line with a little laugh takes us from the unpleasantly inept into the realm of downright creepy. To say that he writes and directs exactly the way he sounds pretty much says it all.

The movie itself has only a vestigial plot. Wiseau—despite the fact that he sets off your sleaze-o-meter every time you see him—is this nice guy named Johnny with a girlfriend, Lisa (Julierre Danielle), who can best be described as a duplicitous bitch. After living with Johnny for five years (or seven depending on where we are in the script), she suddenly decides he’s boring and she doesn’t like him. That it took her five years and not five minutes is truly remarkable. Rather than address the issue, she proceeds to seduce and ensnare Johnny’s best friend (Greg Sestero).That’s pretty much all the story there is—except that it, of course, leads to Tragic Consequences that play like comedy.

No description can really prepare you for the sheer dreadfulness of the movie—and that, of course, is its appeal. It’s far worse—and more incoherent—than anything Ed Wood ever did. In tone, it’s weirdly similar to those dismal dramas Hugo Haas cranked out in the 1950s—most of which starred the unattractive Haas as an older man being abused by a younger woman with whom he’s besotted. In execution, it’s somewhere between a TV soap and soft-core porn (Wiseau likes his sex scene so much that we see it twice). In the end, it’s an indefensible mess that exists only to be laughed at for its stupefying incompetence, which is its current raison d’être and why it’s taken on a Rocky Horror cult status. It simply begs to be mocked. How badly it begs can only be appreciated by seeing it.

The DVD case tries to sell the film as a black comedy, but it’s painfully obvious that Wiseau thought he was making a deep drama and this tack is merely an attempt to make The Room more palatable. It doesn’t work, but it adds another layer to the weirdness of it all. Wiseau—who frankly seems like a visitor from another planet—appears to accept the fact that people find the movie funny without seeming to quite understand why. Somehow it keeps reminding me of the story when a friend once called Ed Wood to tell him that Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959) was being show on TV, only to have a tearful Wood ask, “They aren’t laughing at it, are they?”

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

23 thoughts on “The Room

  1. When I was in seventh grade, my English class was given a term project – we were to write and produce a series of short ‘television programs’ for a hypothetical television network. I was in charge of one of the groups and set about the task like a twelve year old Orson Welles. I wrote the script, supplied the camera, directed, played two characters (they wore different neckties to differentiate) and edited the film. The final scene involved a character assassinating the murderer of his father, scored by the theme from ‘Happy Days’ – possibly some Ken Russell influence showing through there. The thing played like an episode of Law and Order condensed to nine minutes, complete with crooked defense attorneys and a subplot involving embezzling business partners. It is possibly the most inept piece of drama ever committed to videotape.

    I rewatched it after seeing THE ROOM. It was a very similar experience.

  2. Dionysis

    “sounding like someone with a speech impediment attempting an Udo Kier impression.”

    That’s the funniest thing I’ve read in ages. Thanks for the laugh.

  3. Ken Hanke

    That’s the funniest thing I’ve read in ages

    You should see the performance — especially Wiseau’s James Dean impression.

  4. Kipper

    OrbitDVD

    Have no fear, in the coming months I’ll be hosting another free screening, and Trapped in the Closet parts 1-23 are on the top of the list for the next awful film I plan on showing.

    I hope you’re excited, and have a chance to swing by BoBo on Monday.

    We’re bringing up a film professor from Coastal Carolina who wrote a paper on The Room to come up and share a few words and point out key scenes as well. I can hardly wait.

  5. Ken Hanke

    We’re bringing up a film professor from Coastal Carolina who wrote a paper on The Room to come up and share a few words and point out key scenes as well

    Key scenes, huh? You know, if I wasn’t utterly swamped with end of the year stuff, I’d come see this.

  6. TonyRo

    I own a copy and have had several screenings with different people each time….reactions are mixed, ranging from getting angry and screaming everytime something more absurd is revealed during the movie to my brother, who loves to rationalize awful flicks, who complimented it’s lighting.

    My all time favorite though is my buddy’s girlfriend who is a total chick, loves LEGALLY BLONDE (a worse flick than THE ROOM in my opinion), had no clue what this movie was about or why we were wasting an hour and a half watching it. She thought we’d taped a Skinemax movie and were watching it, she left in the first ten minutes.

    My own opinions here are that it’s beautifully horrible. NOT the worst movie I’ve ever seen (nothing beats MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE), but it’s pretty bad….however it makes me laugh. The true dividing point between it and MANOS is that there is nothing anyone (even Mystery Science Theater was at a loss) can do to make MANOS enjoyable.

    I’m very glad you got to review this Ken, great review.

  7. Kipper

    Ken, if you still have my copy of the DVD you should really make sure you re-watch the flower shop scene again.

    It’s only about 30 seconds long, but SOOOO much happens that is key to the film. Not only is Johnny a great guy, he’s a goddamn flower shop keeper’s favorite customer, although he’s unrecognizable while wearing sunglasses.

    Further, his reply to receiving the flowers is “That’s me!” Baffling. Even if he was replying to the shop keeper’s announcement that she didn’t recognize him, “That’s Me!” makes absolutely no sense.

    And finally, as this professor pointed out to me, the only reason that he is purchasing flowers is so that he can once again make love with his bitch of a girlfriend.

    It seems as though flowers are a key element to Mr. Wiseau’s love making process.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I’m very glad you got to review this Ken, great review.

    Thank you. I’d been looking for an excuse to watch this ever since Luke told me about it.

  9. Ken Hanke

    It seems as though flowers are a key element to Mr. Wiseau’s love making process

    And considering that he uses the same “love making” footage a second time, the flower shop scene is obviously of greater significance than might appear on the surface.

    But you left out, “Hi, doggy!”

  10. Kipper

    Ken, if you still have my copy of the DVD you should really make sure you re-watch the flower shop scene again.

    It’s only about 30 seconds long, but SOOOO much happens that is key to the film. Not only is Johnny a great guy, he’s a goddamn flower shop keeper’s favorite customer, although he’s unrecognizable while wearing sunglasses.

    Further, his reply to receiving the flowers is “That’s me!” Baffling. Even if he was replying to the shop keeper’s announcement that she didn’t recognize him, “That’s Me!” makes absolutely no sense.

    And finally, as this professor pointed out to me, the only reason that he is purchasing flowers is so that he can once again make love with his bitch of a girlfriend.

    It seems as though flowers are a key element to Mr. Wiseau’s love making process.

  11. Thank you. I’d been looking for an excuse to watch this ever since Luke told me about it.

    Maybe I should show DEADLY PREY at Bobo. Interested in reviewing that one again Ken?

    I’m working but I’ll come late with my Nerf Football.

  12. Ken Hanke

    I’m so glad that the film has already been truly scorched into your mind already

    Once you’ve seen it there’s probably no turning back.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Maybe I should show DEADLY PREY at Bobo. Interested in reviewing that one again Ken?

    There’s a real mean streak in you, Marc.

  14. davidf

    Ken, I always especially enjoy reading your reviews for fascinatingly bad movies. There are some movies you’ve never reviewed on here that I’d love to read your reactions to. Southland Tales and Johnny Suede both come to mind.

  15. Ken Hanke

    Ken, I always especially enjoy reading your reviews for fascinatingly bad movies. There are some movies you’ve never reviewed on here that I’d love to read your reactions to. Southland Tales and Johnny Suede both come to mind.

    Well, I’ve never seen Johnny Suede. I’ve only recently seen Southland Tales — and I’m not sure I think it’s actually bad, though it’s certainly fascinating and more than a little demented. Now, if someone would actually run these movies, I’d review them.

  16. davidf

    “I’ve only recently seen Southland Tales—and I’m not sure I think it’s actually bad”

    Honestly, I don’t think it’s actually bad overall either, but its elements of badness are fascinating. That one came to mind because its a movie that sticks in my mind and makes me want to watch it again solely to figure out wtf Richard Kelly was thinking. I haven’t been able to watch it with company, though, because everyone else I’ve known who’s seen it so far finds it a laughable steaming pile. I don’t dispute that, but I’m still fascinated. Some of these movies are of the “oh my god, that smells horrible… here, smell this” variety.

  17. I didn’t like SOUTHLAND TALES, but I give Kelly the brass balls award for the decade. He made a film like they used to make in the 70s… incomprehensible except only to the filmmaker. I miss that reckless abandon.

  18. Ken Hanke

    He made a film like they used to make in the 70s… incomprehensible except only to the filmmaker. I miss that reckless abandon

    But the odd thing is that the film didn’t seem all that incomprehensible to me. Granted, there are things in it that are pretty irrelevant — yes, I am thinking of the musical number — but they didn’t particularly strike me as interfering with following the basic story. At the same time, I know what you’re saying and certainly I miss the boldness of an era I’d put down as roughly from 1965-1975.

  19. Jim Donato

    I never saw Johnny Suede. The review I read in Film Threat made it seem like a flick I could probably miss. But I did see director Tom DiCillo’s followup, “Living In Oblivion,” allegedly a roman-a-clef farce about the making of Johnny Suede and it was pretty funny. It was good enough to make me think maybe Johnny Suede deserved a viewing after all. Caveat – I am a Steve Buscemi fan.

  20. Ken Hanke

    But I did see director Tom DiCillo’s followup, “Living In Oblivion,” allegedly a roman-a-clef farce about the making of Johnny Suede and it was pretty funny

    Is this the “What is it with dwarves and dream sequences? I’m a dwarf and I don’t dream about dwarves” movie?

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