The Room: the best worst film ever made?
- 17 February 2010
Ahead of its first Scottish screening Jonny Ensall celebrates the awfulness of cult bad movie The Room
It's not just that Tommy Wiseau's The Room is a bad film. It is, of course, a very bad film, but its failure is more spectacular than that. Influenced in equal measure by Tennessee Williams and Friends, the 2003 movie is a tragedy in many senses. It follows the demise of Wiseau's Johnny at the hands of fickle 'she devil' Lisa, who gradually drives her man to destruction in the titular room (actually a two-storey San Francisco flat). With some light comedy and tawdry action sequences thrown in to balance out the misogyny, the film is a compelling mess of clichés that highlights everything that's daft about Hollywood plotlines and performances.
At the heart of this mess is our star Wiseau, who also wrote, directed and produced the feature. Little is known about this auteur's past other than that he's maybe Austrian (his Arnie-esque accent is difficult to place), he trained as an actor in California and he is rumoured to have financed the $7m cost of The Room by importing leather jackets into the US from Korea. For most of the movie he looks like WWF wrestler Bret 'Hitman' Hart in a suit - and he is one of the worst actors you will ever watch ...
… though probably not the worst, as he actually looks good in comparison to his co-stars. There's Lisa, (Juliette Danielle), who is erroneously referred to as 'beautiful' throughout, and who acts with the petulance of a cheerleader starring in the school play. There's Greg 'Sestosterone' Sestero as Mark, Johnny's effete best friend who falls for Lisa. Best of all there's Lisa's mother Claudette (Carolyn Minnott), who manages to breezily brush off the fact that she has cancer as though it were athlete's foot.
The Room is also notable for its plot black holes and unnecessary scenes. Altogether these constitute about 50 per cent of its running time. Some of the best include an encounter with a rampaging drug dealer, a game of football in an impossibly small space that ends in injury and about three stomach-churning sex scenes between different characters. All of which goes only some small way to describing how brilliantly awful, and compellingly misguided, this opus is.
The film has become a cult hit, with cinemas across America putting on regular weekly or monthly screenings and stars including Drew Barrymore throwing 'Room parties' to celebrate Wiseau's anti-masterpiece. By the time it reached the UK late last year, a set of conventions for audience participation had grown up the screenings. For example it's normal to shout 'because you're woman' in response to any female character's questions, or 'focus' at the film's blurrier moments. Most excitingly, plastic spoons are handed out to the audience to be thrown at the screen whenever one of the apartment's many spoon-themed artworks (who knows why?) creeps into shot. A full list of Room-watching rules can be found here: http://theroomuk.wordpress.com/viewer-guide
With its first Scottish screening coming up this weekend The Room is an absolute must see. Altogether now, 'You're tearing me apart Lisa!'
The Room, Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh, Sat 20 Mar, 11pm.