DIRECTED BY: Tommy Wiseau
FEATURING: Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero
PLOT: A trusting banker’s fiancée cheats on him with his best friend.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The Room is certainly… um, unusual (actually, more like delusional). While it’s a qualified “must-see” for seekers of the offbeat, it’s more on-the-surface-stupid than deeply, derangedly weird.
COMMENTS: When The Room begins it seems like a normal movie. There is a professional-looking spinning “W” logo for Wiseau-Films, competent establishing shots of the Golden Gate bridge and other Frisco landmarks, and an overture that is not conspicuously awful. Then, in the very first scene Tommy Wiseau strides through the door with his long, stringy black hair framing a face that looks like a cadaver shot up with Botox. “Hai babe,” he says in an unplaceable, lilting mutt-Eurotrash accent that seems vaguely French, vaguely Polish. “I haf sumfink for yoo-ooo.” What follows is a soapy melodrama in which universally-beloved paragon-of-benevolence Johnny (Wiseau) is relentlessly betrayed by manipulative, ungrateful fiancée Lisa. That may seem like a pretty slender storyline to try to hang a ninety-minute feature on, and it is. Wiseau the writer is aware of this fact, and so he stuffs the script full of subplots (not to mention three gauzy slow-jam sex scenes in the first half hour alone, complete with a tasteful shot of Wiseau’s bum for the ladies). Lisa’s mother has breast cancer. Lisa accuses Johnny of beating her. Denny, a teenage orphan Johnny is putting through college, has the hots for Lisa. A couple of friends of the unhappy couple break into their apartment to make out, and are discovered by Lisa and her mother. Denny owes money to a drug dealer named Chris-R. Johnny and his friends put on tuxedos and throw around the football until one of them trips and they call the game off. Lisa lies about being pregnant. The problem with these subplots is that they almost all exist only within the scene their introduced in, and are either completely forgotten or never affect the story in any significant way again.
Still, all of this nonsensicality would have resulted in a forgettably awful movie if not for the odd screen presence of Wiseau, whose incongruous anti-charisma adds a layer of perverse fascination. Wiseau looks two decades older than the twenty-something actors who are supposed to be his friends and contemporaries. His miscellaneous accent and his inability to keep his eyes open past half mast already mark him as an odd leading man, but he is also one of the single worst thespians ever to appear onscreen. While the rest of the cast shows soap opera-level acting skills most of the time—except when whipped into histrionics by the discovery that Denny is involved with drugs—Wiseau struggles to match his facial expression and tone of voice to the situation at hand. He laughs at tragic stories, and barely shows any emotion when he’s fuming mad. When he does manage to overreact—as in his infamous “Lisa, you’re tearing me apart!” line—it’s actually surprising that he has somehow nailed the correct emotion, even if he’s failed to convey it believably.
Wiseau scripted himself as a character with no flaws, except for loving too much. The story is obviously based on post-breakup delusions of victimhood, combined with “she’d be sorry if…” passive/aggressive fantasies. Although I hate to play amateur psychologist, Wiseau appears to suffer from a benign form of narcissistic personality disorder, combined with a touch of high-functioning autism. He portrays himself as a lovable victim, but watching The Room, I only felt embarrassed on his behalf (that is, when not breaking up in peals of laughter at his unintentionally inappropriate reactions). Wiseau’s cluelessness seems sad to me, not endearing like lovable naive auteur like Ed Wood. Perhaps this is merely because Wiseau is still with us, and I’ll be fonder of him once he’s passed on.
Co-star Juliette Danielle was only twenty years old and almost literally right off the bus from Texas when she was cast as Wiseau’s conniving love interest. Wide-eyed and excited to be making a movie, the young girl was so humiliated after the film’s disastrous debut and the subsequent jokes made at her expense that she not only retired from acting, but virtually went into hiding for nine years (she’s only recently emerged as a stand-up comic and actress, finally embracing her notoriety). Making a bad movie is all fun and games, until somebody’s career gets ruined.
On a happier note, co-star Greg Sestero wrote a memoir describing the making of The Room and his relationship with Wiseau (much of whose past, including his nationality and the source of the six million dollars he allegedly spent from his own pocket to produce his trashterpiece, remain cloaked in mystery). Rights to the book, “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made,” have been purchased by a Hollywood group that includes comedian Seth Rogen and 2014 Weirdcademy Award winner James Franco (who may play Wiseau in the film adaptation).
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
(This movie was nominated for review by Suggest a weird movie of your own here.), who rhapsodized that it was “a disastrous train wreck combining a boring story, ridiculous sets, terrible performances, gratuitous sex scenes, unlikable characters, unresolved subplots, and generally incompetent film-making into a confounding and gooey glob of strange.”