I have stared into the abyss. It’s name is Tommy Wiseau, and it said “Oh, hi!”
The Room, not to be confused with last year’s excellent drama Room, is an amazing piece of cinema. Not because it’s good, because it isn’t good. At all. But because it feels so much like it is the product of one man’s singular vision, of his very essence. When we’re lucky we as audiences are gifted a finely crafted film that both entertains and entices the mind. We are blessed with narratives rife with nuance and truth. These artistic expressions are shepherded into existence by bold auteurs like Hitchcock, Kubrick, and Nolan.
Then we have this steaming pile. The Room was written by, directed by, and stars Tommy Wiseau, a man of undetermined eastern European descent. (I’m not making that up. If wikipedia doesn’t even know where he was born, nobody does.) As such Wiseau had complete and total creative control over the film, and every bit of it feels like a product of his very eccentric demeanor. His character, Tommy, greets everyone, EVERYONE, with a jovial “Oh hi!” Sex scenes, of which there are more than your average late night skinemax movie, are long and indulgent. There are framed pictures of spoons in Tommy’s home. Of the two female characters one believes in focusing on the practicality of a relationship instead of love and the other is a conniving temptress. Male bonding while tossing around a football is so important that it can, and should, be done at every available opportunity no matter how strange it is to be tossing a football at that time. Clearly Tommy Wiseau is a passionate man who believes in strong relationships, values artistic expression, has been hurt by women in the past, and is likely a tad misogynistic. Oh, and…likes spoons. I guess.
He bared his soul in this movie. Which would be great if he showed a single iota of skill or even basic working knowledge of movie making. Shots occasionally go in and out of focus. Establishing shots show us it’s night when the next moment daylight is pouring through a window. Plot lines are brought up suddenly and dropped instantly never to be resolved. For example, one character who Tommy thinks of as a son is threatened at gunpoint. It’s then revealed that he needed some money badly, borrowed from some shady people, and needs to pay up. I sure hope he got that sorted out because we sure never see anything about it again after that one scene. Line readings and inflections are all over the map. Well, except for the part of a map you’d find proper human emotion. For a movie that is about passion and betrayal there isn’t a single ounce of feeling in these walking mouthpieces. You could classify this as a zombie movie because all of the actors are clearly dead inside.
Let me tell you a story about my sophomore year of high school. I helped a good friend with his film class final project. He wrote it, we directed it, and we starred in it with our social circle. It was some terrorist plot nonsense that let us run around with paintball guns and pretend to be action stars. We filmed for about a month of weekends plus a few extra random days. He did the editing, tossed in some stolen movie scores, and Operation: High Sun was born. The quality is about as low as you’d expect from a bunch of kids who think they’re awesome and I’m sorry to anyone who’s sat through its thirty minute run time. Even still, I’ve always been proud of what we accomplished. Despite the simple plot that was poorly communicated and even more poorly acted, we showed an understanding of how to frame shots, block out the flow of a scene, the concepts of setups and payoffs, and understanding a character’s motivation. I’m even more proud of that project now because that is all more than I can say for Tommy Wiseau.
And yet, The Room is so awfully, hilariously bad that I found myself really enjoying the experience of laughing at it and marveling at the idea that something so ridiculously incompetent could exist. The whole experience of the film and Tommy Wiseau himself is so bizarre that there is a certain strange appeal to it all. I’m clearly not alone as there is a cult following to this film complete with midnight showings and Rocky Horror Picture Show style interactions like throwing spoons at the screen. One of the stars of the movie wrote a book about making it called The Disaster Artist and that is being adapted into a movie itself with James Franco playing Tommy Wiseau. I can’t wait.
The Room is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. But it’s so bad that it’s actually a curiosity piece that is amplified by its eccentric maker. If you’re interested in seeing just how wrong a movie can go Wiseau will show you the way.
Also, you could make some really great drinking games around this movie. That might help.
Other movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):
Hardcore Henry – Video games are clearly an inspiration for this insane action film shot entirely from the first person view of the protagonist. There is a flashy opening he is led through that establishes the characters, a silent protagonist, a character that regularly shows up to give exposition, waypoints to follow to the next objective, a boss battle against a tank, a mounted turret sequence, an escort mission straight out of Mass Effect 3, parkour from Mirror’s Edge, a point when the hero must fight evil versions of himself, and a final boss that cheats and introduces new mechanics. One character even gets multiple lives! The first person gimmick really does add something new and fresh to the action but can be tiresome, even nausea inducing. The action itself is frantic, features impressive stunts, and escalates to ridiculous levels. If that sounds fun to you, check this thing out. If you’re only curious about the gimmick, and if you’ll be able to stomach it, I highly suggest you check out the indiegogo page that got this film finished where you can watch the second best and most video game like sequence of the movie as an example. It’s a perfect example of what you’ll get with the whole film. Kudos to this movie for throwing a musical number in the middle for no good reason.
Session 9 – A crew assigned to clean an abandoned asylum of asbestos so it can be reclaimed as a historical landmark deal with rising tension and creepy happenings. This movie was made by USA Films, a company that I associate more with their TV network, and this movie feels very made for TV. The actors fail to make me feel the dread they do and the “twist” ending is one that can be seen from a mile away. This movie wants you to go back and see how the twist made sense all along, I just don’t care to sit through this dull spook story again to check. It did however give us this super great “fuck you” reaction gif!
Spring – A young man who’s just lost everything that grounded in him life takes off to Italy to shake things up. There he meets an enchanting woman and the two quickly fall into a whirlwind romance. The only real complication is that she regularly transforms into a ravaging primordial tentacle beast. I’d love to see the reaction of someone watching this movie with no knowledge that things will go from zero to WTF instantly at the thirty-six minute mark. The chemistry between the actors and some fun editing make me care about them, thus making the moments when things get weird all the more distressing and effective. Despite the tentacles this really isn’t a horror movie. It’s a well acted drama about feeling lost and finding a person worth devoting yourself to. The tentacles are just a metaphor, I swear.