The Room (2003) dir. Tommy Wiseau
Starring: Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle and Gregory Sistero
* or **** (see for yourself why)
By Blair Stewart
When I first started working in film I befriended a nice, honest, dedicated and extremely milquetoast co-worker. Forging a minor alliance that I would refer to as an "acquaintanceship" and he a "friendship", the co-worker handed me his screenplay that would be his own ship to success. He told me it was a romance and he wanted my opinion. It had an awful title for starters.
Me: How would you describe the lead role?
Him: Sarah Michelle Geller.
Me: Like Sarah Michelle Geller?
Him: Sarah Michelle Geller, she's the perfect girl. I wrote it only for her. I'll play the lead and direct, that why I took two years of acting lessons.
Me: Oh, good stuff.
The 'script' was 100 pages of flat dialogue, non-action, a dearth of subtext and for a 'romance', a pox on lust, sex or insight into what it is to love or be loved. (As a fellow Movie-Dork-Virgin-Cliche, I wasn't one to talk either) It took place in Edmonton and unless you're making a Guy Maddin rip-off or another "Road Warrior" no film should ever take place there, ever-ever-ever. I was blunt and my involvement with the script ended there, despite my hope his fortunes have improved.
The reason I bring this up is writer/director/lead actor Tommy Wiseau and his opus "The Room" reminds me a great deal of my buddy's lousy script. Both of them had their hearts in the right place. Both of these gents should be commended for putting in a mighty effort on a personal project and both bravely put that private passion out in the world to be seen. Both of them also lacked basic cinematic talent and understanding. The similarities end though between the co-worker and Mr.Wiseau on two vital fronts: Tommy Wiseau had $6 million dollars in private finance. And Sweet Jesus if he didn't make his film.
A fast-spawning cultural phenomenon with midnight screenings around the globe, "The Room" stands as a wonderment of inepititude and rueful audience laughter. Shot simultaneously on 35mm and digital because no one knew better, "The Room" is Wiseau's stab at a Tennessee Williams/Kazan/Brando bravura achievement. Taking place in San Francisco with a lion's share of Golden Gate Bridge cutaways and dodgy CGI backdrops of the city, poor sap Johnny(Wiseau) is the fiance of the witchly Lisa(Juliette Danielle) who's having an affair with his Zen bread-loaf of a best friend Mark(Greg "Sistsoterone" Sistero). All is well and good for a mediocre film plot but several additional elements send this lil' rocket into the Crazy Stratosphere. Firstly, the chipper man-child orphan Denny(Philip Haldiman) shows up at wildly inappropriate places leading to the classic line: "Denny, two is great, but three is a crowd".
Then you have Lisa's shrewish mother Claudette(Carolyn Minnott) casually mentioning she's contracted life-threatening diseases which are shrugged off by the rest of the uncaring cast. Strangers will arrive late into the plot and offer opinions on the doomed relationship or just have sex in Johnny's house, leading savvy "Room" crowds to shout at the screen "Who the fuck are you?". Rose pedals are strewn everywhere, footballs are awkwardly tossed around and in several queasy Cinemax sex scenes, stomachs are graphically trusted into again and again and again. At the center of this Schadenfreude buffet is the theme 'Woman are crazy and shouldn't be trusted', which is hammered home by the tragically bipolar Lisa like a vengeful Britney Spears on a PCP binge.
Once again this would all make for a memorable rental if it wasn't for the master touch to rank alongside the likes of Ed Wood and Uwe Boll: The legendary Tommy Wiseau himself.
Sporting a preposterous tone-deaf eastern-bloc accent with thrash-metal raven locks and a dark-side-of-the-moon face, Wiseau resembles a henchman Bruce Willis knocks off in the first 3rd of a "Die Hard" instead of the soulful Everyman required. His Johnny is prone to questionable bouts of laughter during tales of spousal abuse and bleats repetitive blood oaths of fidelity and companionship to those around him. When Tommy indulges in his 'big actor's moment' a la "Stella!" or "You're tearing me apart!", the buried corpses of Marlon Brando and James Dean are attacked by ravenous hedgehogs as karmic retribution. If the unintentional comedy of "The Room" was indeed intended Wiseau would be a subversive genius far exceeding that of Andy Kaufman or Sacha Baron Cohen. Sadly "The Room" is not, but the awesome glee it brings out in a packed crowd of fans is a sight to behold.
A must-see for those who haven't seen it, and a must-see for those already familiar with the words of Mark the Best Friend: "Oh man, I just can't figure women out. Sometimes they're just too smart. Sometimes they're flat-out stupid. Other times they're just evil."
This is a keeper, folks.
PS-After its release in LA in 2003, a billboard ad paid by Wiseau for "The Room" compared it to the works of Tennessee Williams. Tennessee was misspelled on the billboard.