The Room

The Room ½

Did You Know the Film Is Set in San Francisco?

I went into this film without knowing anything about it except that it's bad enough so that there was a live theatrical RiffTrax of it, surely reason enough to watch anything--provided you're there for the riffing. Otherwise, it's proof that you should avoid the movie at all costs. I'm still not sure why it's called what it is, unless possibly it's because the female character spends pretty much the entire movie in one apartment. Other people leave; she does not. Not even Wikipedia and IMDb know anything about lousy auteur Tommy Wiseau. My theory, midway through the film, became that he's from wherever the hell that actress from Werewolf is from; they have similar accents. Actually, for some reason, I had come to the conclusion before watching it that this was a horror movie--as my friend Cara, with whom I saw it, put it, it is!--but it's an inept drama. I have a number of theories about this film, none of which are new to me. This film is, I suspect, more the subject of bewilderment than anything else, which is a darn fine way of getting at a cult classic status, I suppose, but I can't fathom seeing this movie again without the riffing. After all, as I told Cara, I don't drink. I'm certainly not any good at ironic enjoyment of this sort of thing; no puppets, no watching, so far as I'm concerned.

I'll unroll the "plot" to you as it came to me. Johnny (Wiseau) and Lisa (Juliette Danielle) are deeply in love. They have the kind of wacky neighbour you expect in this sort of thing, a kid named Denny (Philip Haldiman) who's too dumb to leave when Johnny and Lisa are starting to have sex. Which they keep at for a ridiculous amount of time. Then, Lisa's mother, Claudette (Caroly Minnott), comes over. She tells Lisa that she has breast cancer. Lisa ignores this and tells her mother that she doesn't love Johnny anymore and plans to leave him. Her mother tells her instead that she should stay with Johnny, because he's a successful banker, and Lisa can't support herself. Having proved herself the worst mother I've seen in film in some time, she then leaves, and Lisa decides to seduce Johnny's best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero). Which he goes along with pretty easily, despite the fact that he's Johnny's best friend. (This comes up once or twice.) Lisa continues to act completely in love with Johnny when he's there and completely disgusted by him when he isn't. Denny, upon being told that Lisa isn't in love with him, decides to propose to his own girlfriend and gets roughed up over some drug deals. And a couple of Johnny and Lisa's friends break into their apartment to have sex.

The RiffTrax guys postulate that not only had Tommy Wiseau not ever made a movie before, he hadn't even seen one. Or talked to actual human beings. Because nothing in this movie makes any sense in the terms of human interaction. The most notable example of this, I thought, was Claudette's cancer--her whole character, really. She tells her daughter that the tests have come back and confirmed that she has breast cancer. Definitely. Which Lisa takes pretty well in stride, then never mentions again. Claudette never mentions it again, either. There is no "I want to see my daughter happily married before I die." No "I want to be sure you're taken care of after I'm gone." Just . . . nothing. Further, she knows that her own life choices haven't worked out--she's been married a half-dozen or so times, after all--but she's pressuring her daughter to follow in her footsteps. Okay, so I've known someone who really did think her daughter was too dumb to take care of herself, and she was arguably right. On the other hand, she never phrased it to her daughter in quite those terms. Claudette also rips apart Denny, whom she met five minutes earlier, over the drug thing that appears and disappears from the film briefly.

This is not so much a movie as a sociological experiment. It seems as though there is literally nothing that Tommy Wiseau understands. (Including, if some behind-the-scenes talk is believed, that you don't actually count as a director if you ask someone to do it for you.) Johnny and Lisa supposedly met because you can't cash an out-of-state check. Which is a thing I've been doing pretty well all my life; I grew up in California, and my father's parents lived in Arizona. Still, the stupid check story is more background than we get on pretty much anyone else. We don't know who any of these people are, how they met, what they're doing there. What's with Michelle (Robyn Paris) and Mike (Scott Holmes) and breaking into the apartment for the express purpose of fooling around on Johnny and Lisa's couch? Why does Mike say "me underwears"? Why did Lisa decide that having sex with Mark had to happen on the spiral staircase? Because, wow, that sounds even more uncomfortable than on a regular staircase. What's with Denny and the drugs? And, seriously, why tossing around a football while wearing tuxedos? And who takes their wedding pictures that far in advance of, you know, the wedding?

Also, why do Cara and I always end up sitting in front of That Guy when we go to these things? At least this time, he seemed to have someone with him, but we're pretty sure it's the same guy who sat and talked to himself all the way through Anaconda. And I think Starship Troopers. And so forth. (Not Godzilla, but we saw that one in a different theatre.) The thing, people, is that when we go to see these things, we aren't there to listen to you. We want to listen to Mike, Bill, and Kevin, not random guy sitting behind us who has lost the power of internal monologue. Actually, this was kind of a bold choice for them--there's swearing and a whole lot of tedious sex scenes. The only way the second one, the one on the staircase, was tolerable was that they were narrating it with how much the whole thing had to hurt. And then, the third one started, and it just felt as though there was nothing more to be said that hadn't been said the first and second. I'm just perplexed by the whole thing, and while on the surface, that makes for perfect riffing, it just seemed as though there were a few places in the movie where there was nothing these guys could get a handle on.