Several spoonfuls of delightfully terrible filmmaking
Review by Gabriela Delgado
I first discovered Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic The Room (2003) in 2017 while perusing the bad-movie reviewer community on Youtube. A few content creators I’d been following for a while praised it with so much enthusiasm that it readily peaked my interest and I decided to give it a go.
I was immediately fascinated by every aspect of the film, from ridiculous lines and their delivery (like Tommy’s highly quotable “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!”), to strange choices like having the male characters throw a football at each other in almost every “male-bonding” scene. Confused?
Allow me to drag you deeper into a tale of passion, heartache and betrayal, but most importantly, the tale of a man with big Hollywood dreams and an impaired vision of the world, that resulted in one of the most absurd and hilarious movies that has ever been made.
A favourite of actors Paul Rudd and Kristen Bell, who contributed to its popularity by hosting private viewings and joining midnight screenings of the film, The Room is the best film to watch if you’re up for inept storylines that go nowhere, and priceless one-liners that will stay with you forever.
Tommy Wiseau stars as good guy Johnny, a banker who is loved by everyone around him and is considered a saint among the cast of characters on the film. The story follows Johnny, his unfaithful “future wife” Lisa (Juliette Danielle), and his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero), in a dramatic love triangle that ends in a tragedy worthy of heroic Greek myths.
The barebones of the story makes it seem like any other romantic drama, but add Tommy’s terrible acting and a nonsensical script, and we’ve got an accidental comedy that brings roaring laughter rather than the sorrowful tears Wiseau had intended.
The characters of The Room seem to exist in a distorted, alien world that resembles San Francisco only in aesthetics. Their reactions are either wooden and unemotional, or frantic to the point of hysterics, never in between. Plot lines are discarded as soon as they’re mentioned, with the most notorious being Lisa’s mother’s supposed breast cancer, which is introduced in a scene and forgotten for the rest of the film, despite the severity of the issue.
Other disappearing plot lines include Lisa working “in the computer business” without any explanation of what it means; Tommy’s neighbour and protégé, Denny, getting into trouble with a drug dealer—the famous Chris R—who is never seen again; and a bizarre scene where Johnny and his friends, all wearing tuxedos, throw a ball around with no explanation whatsoever.
Often considered the Citizen Kane of bad movies, as Wiseau wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film, The Room is more than just a bad movie infamous in the industry for its production and execution. Like other terrible, meme-worthy products out there, it attained its cult status as a result of continuous online and offline support, particularly across North America, with Edmonton being one of the cities that hosts monthly screenings at Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre.
It is an experience that expands beyond the typical spectator-film relationship, and this is ultimately what drew me in the most. As soon as I found out Edmonton offered monthly viewings of the film, I decided to buy myself a ticket and embarked in the experience that I’d only read about online.
Throughout the years, attendees have developed in-theatre rituals that include throwing plastic spoons whenever a picture of cutlery enters the frame, shouting “oh, hi!” at the screen whenever a character appears, and loudly singing the ballads that accompany the various—uncomfortable—sex scenes.
I was very glad that all of these happened at my screening. A couple of guys that had taken a seat in front of me had even brought a crateful of spoons! They offered me some before the film began and I accepted, feeling like I was fully part of the experience at last.
But nothing got me into The Room like the story from behind the scenes, the story of Tommy’s struggles to make the movie of his dreams, and Greg Sestero’s loyal support to his friend’s cause. The latter co-wrote the 2013 New York Times bestseller The Disaster Artist, an autobiographical recounting of Sestero and Wiseau’s friendship before and during the production of The Room. The book details the duo’s relationship since their first meeting at an acting class in San Francisco, and explores how Wiseau’s eccentric nature led him to acquire a suspiciously large sum of money—an impressive $6 million budget—in order to fund his passion project.
The Disaster Artist’s popularity led to the 2017 film of the same name, which, in true Tommy Wiseau fashion, was directed and produced by James Franco, who also took on the role of Wiseau. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and placed second in the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), high honours that The Room can now add to its legacy.
Sestero himself has made a couple of appearances at Metro Cinema over the years, most recently in late November 2017. I was pleasantly surprised when an introductory video of Sestero, urging us to remain civil towards each other and the actors on the movie, popped up before the start of the film. “Please, plastic spoons only!” I remember him saying as the entire theatre whooped their agreement. “So if you’ve got metal cutlery, better put that away now.”
Minutes later, as soon as someone in the front screamed “Spoon!” at the top of his lungs and I threw my handful, I couldn’t help but think, amused, that it reminded me of throwing roses at an artist after an outstanding performance. I figured Tommy’s slurred speech, frantic hand movements and deadpan lines were clearly deserving of such an honour.
The Room, with its silly characters and lines, cringey scenes and senseless story, remains one of my favourite films of all time. It is perfect for all the wrong reasons, and it is its incompetency which has granted it such an important place in the hearts of millions of cinephiles who haven’t stopped saying “Oh hi, Mark!” since the first time. Metro Cinema offers a monthly viewing of the film, and it is an event that I encourage everyone to experience.
Metro Cinema, 8712 109 ST NW, Edmonton
Next screening: January 3, 2020, 11:30 pm