The Room – keep it locked up

A recent blog I posted discussed Serenity, a film that in the words of the director, ‘should never have been made’. This post will also discuss a film that should never have been made, but for very different reasons.

A few weeks ago I sat between two friends debating the entertainment value of The Room, a 2003 film directed by Tommy Wiseau, who also wrote and starred in the film as its central character, Jonny. The film has been dubbed ‘the worst film ever made’, and to a certain extent I’d agree. Now subject mostly to cult cinema screenings, I took the opportunity to see it at last weekend and as per instruction from the event organiser I’m reviewing it: ‘now you’ve seen The Room, go out and tell everybody about The Room’. I will, but I refuse to be nice about it.

For an audience that consisted mainly of people who had seen the film before it was surprising to see how popular the event was, and how enthusiastic people are about it. The event reminded me of a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show I attended in Chicago a couple of years ago; my first experience of audience-participation cinema and I was looking forward to repeating the it with a film I hadn’t seen before. If I can say one positive thing about the film, it is the type of screening it now attracts. Without a loud audience throwing verbal abuse and numerous plastic spoons around the room it would have made for far more painful viewing, though saying that, I’m sure the American footballs that were also flying around the room actually did make some painful viewing for some unfortunate audience members. Hoping not to be hit in the back of the head by a forcefully-thrown football is one way to ensure some adrenaline during a film, unfortunately it was the only type present that evening.

The film itself is terrible, there’s no question about it. I’m not saying that as opinion, but fact. The acting, writing, filming and setting were all of amateur level at best, and that’s for a film that cost $6 million. I was convinced it was meant to be ironically bad, a director’s attempt to prove a point about something perhaps, but as a genuine piece of film designed to address the problem of a love triangle in the common setting of a friendship group, the film placed too much focus on the everyday and not enough on the drama. An example of this is the bizarre amount of attention placed on the character Mike’s inability to remember to pick up his underwear after using his friends’ apartment for sex, though the reason for this event itself is never explained and somehow fails to reflect Wiseau’s attempt to convey everyday scenarios. The drama, on the other hand, is visited with almost fearful caution so as to not distract the audience from the menial and in doing so creates short scenes with no relevance to the overall plot. The most famous of these is when Lisa’s mother announces she has cancer: Lisa shows little emotion towards this news and in an unspoken agreement both characters decide it would be better for both them and the audience if the matter is never spoken of again.

This lack of emotion is revisited in a brutal instance of little tact when the final scene sees Lisa and her lover Mark discover the body of suicide-driven and betrayed Jonny. Lisa is (as much as Juliette Daniel’s acting ability allows) suffering from shock at the discovery of what her actions have driven her fiancé to just a short time after leaving him for his best friend, who then makes the decision that this is the best time and place to inform Lisa he doesn’t want to see her again.

I don’t usually include spoilers in my reviews, but the only thing saving this film from being spoilt is not to watch it, its 99 minutes of your life you won’t ever get back. Perhaps in his next film Wiseau could spare us the torment and shoot himself in the first scene instead.

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