By Martin Shore
Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is an undeniable mess of a film… but then again, you knew that, right? Whether you’re coming in blind, have recently seen The Disaster Artist and want to see the original or have had the fortune of sitting through it in its entirety to assess its complete lack of merit, everyone who’s heard of The Room knows exactly how terrible it really is.
If you aren’t familiar with Wiseau’s disaster-piece, it is a bizarre caper of self-aggrandised figure Johnny who enjoys an apparent American idealism. He has “a job, at the bank, where “he makes a lot of money” and he lives with his fiancée Lisa who he loves so much (as we are told, many, MANY times). Wiseau is in intent on reminding us of the romance apparently at the heart of the narrative, as he shoves in no less than three sex scenes within roughly the first 30 minutes, with a couple more hinted at later down the line too. Coupled with how every one of his lines ends with Wiseau’s haunting laugh, or that any of the characters seems incapable of not adoring him, barring Lisa, who could easily be an object of study entirely on her own from the film itself.
As a character, Lisa must be born either out of some serious trauma or a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a woman. Her portrayal is a clear case of deep-seated misogyny. Lisa is a vindictive, backstabbing, cheating, openly malicious, and greedy character. She freely admits in callous conversation with her mother (in herself oddly blasé about her diagnosis with breast cancer and concern with wealth over all else) about how she doesn’t care for anyone else but herself, yet flits from emotional admissions of love and denials of feeling from minute to minute.
Lisa is apparently playing off fiancée Johnny against his best friend Mark, and is sleeping with both of them, which had to be demonstrated through those rather seedy sex scenes complete with a “sexy” saxophone RnB underscore I already mentioned. Bluntly, Wiseau’s portrayal of women must be seen to be believed, for his conception of mundane femininity is completely opposed to what you would expect from what could be roughly categorised as a realist drama. Well, this is a life drama wherein Wiseau apparently flirted with making Johnny a vampire, but the point stands that his treatment of female characters will leave you astounded.
The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s love-letter to the writer-director-star seems to romanticise the composition of the movie a tad, focussing more on investigating Wiseau in all his eccentricities rather than the film itself. However, it also includes several shot-by-shot matched scenes from The Room proper mocked up in the movie, with Franco rather impressively capturing Wiseau’s bizarre persona perfectly in his strangled delivery of lines. This achievement is quite paradoxical, for Franco is being celebrated for being excellent at acting as if he were a bad actor. Seeing these two scenes performed side by side I think truly accentuates just how strange an experience watching The Room is, being so entertained by what Wiseau clearly believed was an emotional delivery of a line and a scraggy-haired James Franco actively attempting to perform badly.
Discussing The Room and its (lack of) merit seems to raise the invariable discussion of what exactly determines the quality of a movie. Obviously, you could take into account the technical achievements of a film, whether that be gripping action sequences, inventive cinematography or visually stunning CGI. However, if you come down to the base level of enjoyment, laughing at the sheer absurdity of The Room’s plot, its hyperbolic characters or plain and simple bad acting make for a uniquely entertaining experience as you look forward to the next “could-it-get-any-worse” moment.
Being titled “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” is no mean feat, and The Room earns this title by just being all-around awful. However, this awful composition is precisely what makes it a must-see, for it strays so much into the territory of “so bad it’s good.” I guarantee that if you haven’t given it a go yet, you’ll be revisiting it multiple times as you pick up more and more lines of a truly awful, non-sensical script that wouldn’t know tone if it punched it square in the face. The Room, in all its horrendous glory, absolutely deserves your attention, but only if you think you can stomach the image of a vampiricially pale, fully naked Tommy Wiseau with his arse taking centre stage so early in the film for no point whatsoever.
Photograph: dangerismycat via Flickr