© 2003 Wiseau-Films

The Room (2003)

Early this year I became aware of the cult of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, hailed as “The Citizen Kane of Bad Movies” and was immediately fascinated. I got my hands on a copy in short order, but I resisted the temptation to watch it right away. I was sure watching this alone would be funny, but watching it with friends would be hilarious. I was also a bit afraid of seeing it alone, in case it was very bad, but not bad enough to be funny, and would leave me depressed. So I convinced friends to hold a night of bad movies, and we plowed throw the notorious Troll 2 (no relation to Troll), Ed Wood’s Night of the Ghouls, Gremlins-ripoff Hobgoblins and Mr. Wiseau’s magnum opus The Room.

For those who are not obsessed with The Room, and by that I mean people who have not seen The Room, the film is about Johnny, a banker who is upset about being passed over for a promotion. He lives with his fiancée Lisa, whom he has been with for seven years, and is due to marry in one month’s time. Lisa is planning a surprise birthday party for Johnny, where they will announce that they are expecting their first child. Johnny pampers Lisa, and is also a guardian for Denny, a troubled teen who he set up with an apartment and college tuition. Unbeknownst to Johnny, Lisa is sleeping with his best friend Mark and no longer loves the man she is engaged to. She has a trouble relationship with her mother who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The surprise party ends in disaster, as Lisa openly flirts with Mark, causing a confrontation between Johnny and Mark, after which Lisa calls of the marriage and leaves him for good, after which he spirals out of control.

The basic story possibly could have been turned into a good film, but what it was turned into was one of the worst films ever made. The common rules of filmmaking, not to mention rules of English grammar and pronunciation, are completely ignored. There are countless technical problems in terms of matching up shops and so on, but these can be found even in the biggest-budgeted films. I am not sure if things like establishing shots are important because the align with the way we intrinsically make sense of things, or if they are so often used in good films that we just expect them to be there, but it is really disorienting when they are completely left out. The character of Mark, for example, is introduced during a call to his cell phone, in which the first thing he says is that he is really busy. The shot is so tightly cropped it is not really clear where he is. It seems he might be in a car, but it is never explained visually or verbally why the car is not moving. Establishing shots of the outside of “the room” on the night of the party do not come at the beginning of the scene, to establish that it is not night, or at the end, to suggest that the party will continue well into the night. Instead the establishing shots come smack in the middle of the scene, making you wonder why the camera has gone outside and come back in again. These types of problems are in every single scene, as characters appear to looking away from each other while they are apparently having a conversation. There are huge problems with the plot, as numerous subplots are introduced to add dramatic tension and instantly forgotten about. The time frame of the action is completely unclear, as for example, Mark and Johnny meet at a park to hang out, then Mark is alone with Lisa, and then the two guys are together again in the park, making it completely unclear how many times they were at the park together. There are technical problems with lots of very out-of-focus shots and some very unrealistic green screen shots that supposedly take place on a rooftop overlooking San Francisco.

All of the disastrous problems all add up to a hilarious viewing experience, and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a movie.

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