The Room

The Room ★★★★

Now that The Disaster Artist is here to make us ruminate on why we've been laughing at Tommy Wiseau all these years, my friend was intent on educating some of our uninitiated pals on the 21st century's best-known Bad Movie, via my copy, which had actually been in her possession for some time. This was as good an excuse as any to revisit it, and my first-ever time watching it in the "proper setting," i.e. not by myself after whoever I tried to show it to has checked out. I'll concede that viewing The Room in a group is essential for some (most?) people, who would never dream of sitting down with a no-budget crapheap like it's normal entertainment. I've personally never had trouble getting into it.

It seems to me that this movie's enduring popularity is due to there not being a lot of well-known, low budget "so bad it's good" movies that classify as Dramas (Wiseau appears to aiming for "erotic thriller," but without any eroticism or thrills, this plays like a delusional romance-tragedy). I mean, there's always been campy Hollywood stuff like Showgirls or Mommy Dearest or whatever, but most titles this cheap, obsessive and technically malformed don't get passed around at parties. The majority of stuff this junky is relegated to the horror, sci-fi, fantasy or action categories, from which some viewers are unfortunately conditioned to expect ineptitude (or no-budget religious productions, the type of sewage no one has the stomach to mine). The Room certainly fills a gap for folks who wouldn't mess with mind-melting rotgut like, say, A Night to Dismember or Mutant Massacre. For all of Wiseau's quirks and shortcomings and odd/poor decisions, The Room is a far more lucid experience than those, making it much friendlier for a wider audience. This is a good thing.

On the flipside, there are plenty of folks with an aversion to this movie, if only to maintain a jaded hipster image because the cult got too big, or perhaps they can't handle unnatural acting, tin-eared dialog and nonsensical plot turns unless there are some lousy creatures or exploding huts to usher them along. To the former group: it's not healthy to take yourself so seriously, and it really is okay to keep liking things after your lame co-workers start asking you about them. To the latter, or anyone else who can't fathom the appeal in chuckling at an extraordinarily clumsy vanity project centering on the capricious persecution of a saintly character played by the writer/director and the strange things the people around him say and do: you're right, this is not for you.

Anyway, I had fun watching the reactions of the first-time viewers, including my wife, who had never made it past canopy bed sex scene 2. I discovered that those sex scenes are somehow less awkward to watch when more people are around, and that the famous TEARING ME APART line can really get a room going. I love being able to share with friends the joy of silly, bizarre, unpredictable z-grade cinema, the kind that gets you thinking hard about the people who make it, as much for the evident, sliver-thin line separating creator from audience as for the embarrassing personal baggage they choose to scatter across every viewer's eyeballs. Few of my non-Letterboxd friends are ever going to sit through Meatcleaver Massacre with me, but most of us can sit down with some drinks and whatnot and enjoy The Room on a similar plane. For that rare pleasure and for this spectacular trainwreck of a cultural touchstone, I remain grateful to Tommy Wiseau and his cast and crew.

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