The Room

The Room ★★

I had seen this once before in such a weird situation I feel it is worth sharing despite the name-drop [the whole thing was so anonymous and crowded that it feels okay]: it was at Shane Black’s home during an Emmys party in 2010. The circumstances of why I was there boil down to a friend of a friend of a friend saying we were invited and then walking in and someone saying “Everyone’s upstairs watching THE ROOM!” That was it!

Anyway, that screening was in a mansion built by the wealth of someone who had mastered the business - Black’s early screenplays are famous for their structure but also for *how* they were written, with sexy asides and appeals to the reader - and THE ROOM was being screened with the “RiffTrax” enabled; meaning an additional audio track led by MST3K replacement host Mike Nelson (I liked Mike in my MST3K days!) mocking the film as it played. This was an audience in full mock-mode, something I grew out of when I was about 15 years old - revelling in badness gets boring quickly. And in the house that built LETHAL WEAPON the condescension could not have been higher: Here, We Make Films; There, They Make…THE ROOM. And advertise it on La Brea going north. I found this whole thing really discomfiting.

It’s funny how quickly I’ve rearranged what THE ROOM means to me since then, even before this rewatching. What is a good movie, anyway? THE ROOM is certainly not “good” in its easy-to-fault production shortcomings; in the writing; in the stilted direction; mostly in the *HOW DID THIS COST SIX MILLION DOLLARS* way. But it is impossible to watch THE ROOM and not feel a voice of some sort exerting itself. I’m not sure that is due to Tommy Wiseau’s direction of the film but more in the committed performances of everyone in the film - starting with Juliette Danielle, the only interesting character in this supposed showpiece for Wiseau and Greg Sestero, but extending to several of the less vain actor/character who make a sincere effort to engage with Wiseau’s nonsense. I find most of this somewhat heartwarming, like Philip Haldiman (“Denny”) who Wiseau clearly “directed” to walk onto set multiple times with no motivation and act engaged and vaguely human-like against all odds. I think this is lost on people who laugh at the movie: truly “bad” movies feature people who don’t do this well, dropping the veil of reality completely. THE ROOM persists because actors like Philip Haldiman kept shrugging off-camera before a take, say to themselves “alright, here we go!” and going for it.

This may be due to some unseen off-set desperation. I’ve yet to see THE DISASTER ARTIST, but I’ve lived in Los Angeles long enough to know plenty of actors who say “fuck it, I’m going to make my OWN film!” as if they were the star and not the story. That’s not a typical path to success for a storyteller!! This city is famously FULL of dreamers from points east hoping to walk into a room and book that part! We can call this the LA LA LAND mythology. Statistically, almost none of them achieve the dream of getting famous like Emma Stone (IRL); but a lot of them give it a real shot. The work I’ve seen from such actors and filmmakers - from Kickstarter pitch videos to short films and so on - is that Los Angeles (not “Hollywood”) churns out 95% unwatchable stuff because it is really, really, really hard to make a good movie. And we don’t need to celebrate their badness, but it isn’t a lot of fun to shit on it either. Watching THE ROOM reminded me that there is something special about it, something magnetic that kept it from obscurity. I hope DISASTER ARTIST can confirm this…or at least be a little more fun to watch.

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