By Amber Jackson
What comes to mind when you think of a bad film? For many, it’s Tommy Wiseau’s independently-made film that is all kinds of confusing and strange. Bearing in mind that the film distributors Paramount never respond to film makers before the two-week mark, but they rejected ‘The Room’ within twenty-four hours. But despite it being an absolute train-wreck of a film, it achieved its status as a cult classic that many still enjoy and laugh at, fifteen years on.
Set in San-Francisco (you can tell because of the random stock footage), the film situates Johnny, played by Wiseau, a happy banker who is smitten by his ‘future wife,’ Lisa (Juliette Danielle). However, unbeknownst to him, Lisa is having an affair with his best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero). Amongst the chaos, random characters jump in every so often such as a neighbourhood kid, Denny (Philip Haldiman), who has a special relationship with Johnny and is just a little bit too into Lisa.
The story of this film begins back in 2001, in which Wiseau originally wrote ‘The Room’ as a play and then adapted it into a 500-page book, which he couldn’t get published. In frustration, his response was to adapt his work into a film that he would produce entirely by himself in order to maintain creative control. ‘The Room’ may as well be called ‘The Tommy Wiseau Show,’ as it was produced, written, directed by and stars the one and only Tommy Wiseau. He exercised so much control, that he actually fired his entire crew halfway through shooting the film because they believed that nobody would ever see it. Financing the entire film himself, Wiseau spent $6 million of his own money on his passion project. And so ‘The Room’ was released in 2003. But only made $1.800 at the Box Office. Oh dear.
Its lack of monetary response is perhaps due to the repetitive and unnecessary dialogue that audiences recognise as ironic catch-phrases such as “oh hi Mark” and “don’t worry about it,” which were exclaimed by Johnny multiple times throughout the script. Many of Wiseau’s lines are very obviously dubbed because he kept forgetting his lines and needed heavy prompting. There are also multiple narrative flaws and continuity errors which make it very difficult to take the film seriously (if you were struggling already) – has Johnny been with Lisa for five years, or seven? Who knows! Much of the film’s content is heavily forced, including the love scenes that are accompanied by R&B tracks that make the atmosphere very odd. Additionally, the heavy use of red within the film may account for the lustiness of Lisa, but who knows. Lisa is written to be a manipulative, evil female character who possesses control of all the men around her, but in reality, she comes across as an indecisive mess, who is constantly reminded by her Mother that she needs financial security and Johnny provides her with that. Lisa effectively tells her Mum to wake up because it’s 2003 now, so she can sleep with whomever she likes. Classic.
Camera-wise, the shots are terrible. They don’t work within their context and sometimes cut characters out entirely, whether they’re talking or not. But the best part about the film is that some of the actors weren’t even real actors. That’s right, the couple who randomly have sex in the middle of the film are not actors and they aren’t even in their own house – they’re in Johnny’s house! Why?! But perhaps an all-time favourite scene involves Johnny in the flower shop, with the lady who actually owned the flower shop. No, she wasn’t an actor either. But she has a sweet dog. Other one-time characters in a random climactic scene include a drug-dealer who never appears again!
Johnny often has conversations with his male friends regarding women and how they’re vindictive and confusion, in an attempt by Wiseau to perhaps make a profound message on speaking vs. feeling emotion, but everything is lost in translation and Johnny is instead portrayed as an angsty mess. Cue Detective Johnny avec his trusty tape recorder, in attempts to suss his ‘future wife’ out, even though he constantly claims to other characters that she’s completely loyal to him. This causes him to discover the truth about Lisa and Mark and so Lisa leaves. Causing Tommy Wiseau to take the set that he bought with his own money and, well… completely destroy it. In a melodramatic haze, he smashes everything and throws the TV out of the window. Which would be a bleak turn of events, if you could get past the out of focus and badly set up camera and the questionable acting.
After premiering in Los Angeles in 2003, most – if not all – laughed throughout the entire film and asked for their money back. It was slated by critics, described as the worst film ever made, as every ‘rule’ on traditional filmmaking is rejected in a way that can only be viewed as ironic. Since it’s been out in the world, however, it is now commonly referred to as the best worst film ever. Filming-wise, it’s consistently terrible, but if you factor that out, it actually makes for funny viewing. There’s no clear message, no meaning and absolutely no explanation, which works when you’re watching it with a group of people with the express aim of wanting a good laugh. And as for the spoon imagery, who knows? But it means that people will often go to screenings of this ‘masterpiece’ and take spoons to throw at the screen every time they appear. Which I believe is at least 34 times. It makes for an incredibly hilarious time. But watch at your own discretion.