Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Room

      I love bad movies. Santa’s Slay, Postal and Killer Klowns from Outer Space are a few examples of my idea of a good time at the movies. I could watch porn strictly for the acting. If something, anything, is terrible about a movie, I’m a happy guy. On a crisp, October night in 2009, however, my views on bad films were changed forever by the magnum opus of the bad movie “genre”. This was a movie called The Room.
Yes, the poster says it all.
      For those of you unfamiliar with this cult sensation, The Room is a 2003 drama which chronicles a love triangle among a man named Johnny, his fiancée, Lisa, and the man’s best friend, Mark. The film’s melodrama seems to aspire to the caliber of a low-budget soap opera, but hammy acting, awkward dialogue and bizarre dead-ends in the plot leave the viewer confused, stunned and a bit disgusted. A fatal illness in a minor character receives half a minute’s observation, only to be forgotten entirely, along with a dear family friend’s drug problem which had come to a violent climax on the roof of an apartment building. First-time watchers trying to keep up with what I will generously refer to as the plot need only focus on the wayward marriage and the forbidden tryst; all diversions were meant to be auxiliary, but ultimately serve no purpose.

      The mastermind behind this disaster piece is a man named Tommy Wiseau, who served as star, creator, writer, director, producer, sole fiduciary and casting director (among other things). His film maintains a constant surrealistic quality, as the viewers try to determine whether this film truly is the train wreck it appears to be, or if this is deliberate stupidity crafted by a connoisseur of the less-than-fine arts. Being an excellent promoter, if nothing else, Wiseau has refused to answer this persistent question. Showing the prescience of Ibsen or Brecht, he has allowed his piece to gain prominence with the resulting controversy he refused to resolve.

      While many idiotic movies without major studio funding and A-list casting are left to rot in fetid tombs, The Room has gained a minor celebrity amongst younger viewers who crave the occasional gag reel. Independent movie houses, like the Boston area’s own Coolidge Corner Theater, still show screenings of the movie. These screenings are in the Rocky Horror Picture Show tradition, in which audience participation is every bit as important as the movie on the screen. Audience members dress as their favorite characters, toss plastic spoons at the screen (in reference to the unexplained framed pictures of cutlery seen in the background) and yell insulting comments or lines from the film, in tandem with the characters speaking them. Wiseau is available for cameo appearances at these screenings, providing ambiguous answers to questions from the audience and performing some of his cherished lines in person.

      The Room has been called one of the worst movies of all time by Entertainment Weekly and The Independent. The same EW article called it “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.” Feeding the debate over the film’s intent is how meticulously crafted the disastrous qualities seem to be -- while watching, one feels that the defects so perfectly blended together cannot be an accident. I must insist that you decide for yourself. To those who will not see this movie, I’m sure my fellow fans will agree, when I quote Wiseau; “You’re tearing me apart!”

Why, yes, his heart is broken!

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