The Room

The Room ★★★★★

I have a story this time!

A friend and I learned about midnight screenings at the Clay Theater during our last semester of high school. With adulthood imminent, responsibilities evaporated in a last call for teenage immaturity and freedom. The Clay was perfectly positioned for that "end of days" feel to senior year, located near a playground available for meeting up beforehand and, as we later discovered, a short drive away from a delectable late night doughnut shop that has satisfied my early AM rumblies on plenty of occasions. They also give away whatever popcorn is left over in the machine thirty minutes after the doors close. Bless them. I should tip them more. And so, with college applications in and the finishing line in sight, I gradually undertook a now ongoing Andrew W.K.-ian project of destroy-build-destroying my circadian rhythm. The Clay was my catalyst.

In the dead of night, with our brains uninhibited by alertness, I saw my first Miyazaki, and a month later came my introduction to 2001. Both experiences were gloriously sensory, the lateness of the event guaranteeing an absolute surrender to the film. But one movie on the schedule loomed large, its fabled incomprehension inspiring enthusiastic back-handed compliments and front-handed insults alike. When my friend and I learned the unquantifiably odd director-writer-producer-star and winner of the Most Likely to Be D.B. Cooper award would make an appearance, attendance became a personal agenda, the most prescient and eventful that remedying a blind spot has ever felt.

This is when I first saw The Room, and, though I haven't been annihilated at every screening since, it does mark the only time I've been not a single drop, stone cold, pass-a-drug-test-for-employment sober during the screening. We dragged a third friend along--a fourth that we had invited flaked the night of; understandable, this movie is certainly not for everyone--and ducked into the theater. Though we shared ambiguous predictions of bafflement, none of us really knew what to expect.

The screening was, to put it as romantically as it deserves, an odyssey: complete with a comical and obliviously uninformative Q&A as well as an excruciatingly loud viewing of the pilot of Wiseau's Hulu series The Neighbors. The euphoric energy of the crowd was intoxicating, so determined in its venomous detachment that it reached an oddly respectful air of absolute investment. We walked out changed, knowing that this wouldn't just become a tradition, but a routine.

As personal as the memory feels though, it's not a particularly unique one. Lots of people love watching this movie. There is, however, a single moment from the evening that casts a shadow over my passion for this film. Clay showings of The Room and pre-screening giveaways are now emceed by a delightful ponytailed gentleman named Michael, but, before his tenure, they were hosted by a different fellow. My first night with The Room would turn out to be his last. The man (I've long since forgotten his name) took to the stage with a strained display of enthusiasm and proceeded to perform all the rehearsed duties of being a hypeman while visibly incapable of putting the necessary heart into it. I've had the fortune of attending one other Q&A with Wiseau at the Clay, and this first one was utter chaos in comparison. The host, seated next to the dual belt-wielding wunderkind and looking absolutely miserable under the hot lights, felt no obligation or fervor to officiate the event in any capacity. Questions were shouted and dismissed at a machine gun pace as Wiseau held free reign over the crowd. The twelve-minute uproar was delightful in the moment, the sheer exhaustion that allowed it only obvious in retrospect. In the final crowd interaction before the projectionist hit play, the crowd shouted and laughed in response to some question or another and the emcee suddenly dropped his smile and muttered into the mike "God, I need to stop doing this." After a few more rules and formalities, the lights dimmed and he walked up the aisle back to the lobby. I never saw him again.

I love The Room. I've seen it... give me a second... fourteen times now, with the fifteenth coming later this week. It's a small but philistine tragedy that I cannot think of another film that matters more to me. The Clay's monthly screenings have turned out to be a major component in maintaining high school friendships during college breaks. Outside of its own distorted wannabee Tennessee Williams vision of American downfall, it serves as a frequent and entertaining event that can reliably gather us all together. It's truly a gift, something to be shared with both friends and strangers, and I've made a vow to never watch it outside a theatrical setting for that reason.

And yet, the memory of that first emcee is seared into my brain. His overwhelmingly public fatigue haunts me as a glimpse into my potential (even probably inevitable) future. This Saturday's screening looks to be one of the biggest yet, with a spider-webbing group of friends and friends of friends looking to encompass twenty-four people or so. I can't wait for it. But diminishing returns will set in one day or another. It might be years away, but I need to be ready when it arrives. I’ve come to think of The Room as having the properties of narcotics: a dynamite social lubricant that should be regulated to some degree or another. Monthly screenings provide ample enough recovery time, but eventually I'm going to have to indulge my better judgement and call it quits. I would hate to come to resent this film. If the warning signs begin to appear, I won't deny them. While that first emcee's misery wasn't immense or eternal, it was so viscerally specific, indicating a history of falling in and out of love, and I want no part of it. But, for now, I have The Room and The Room has me and fear of the future will not be allowed to ruin the present. I'm tired, I'm wasted... I love you, darling.

Masterpiece, as always.

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