December 30, 2010 by abbyo
In the world of truly terrible movies, there tend to be two specimens. There are the movies that are just laughably bad and gloriously strange, and there are the ones that have their laughably awful moments, but mostly just make you feel kind of gross, like you’ve been watching something you shouldn’t have. So far, we’ve looked at two movies, “Hercules in New York” and “Buckaroo Banzai” that fall into the laughably bad/laughably bizarre category. They’re harmless fun, earnest examples of good intentions that just didn’t pan out. I was expecting “The Room,” Tommy Wiseau’s infamous 2003 turd, to be something similar. I was wrong. It is very clearly the second type of movie.
Perhaps my negative reaction resulted from watching the movie alone instead of with a group of friends (the Rifftrax clips I’ve seen on YouTube suggest that this might have been the case, since they’re hilarious). Perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood to watch junky cinema. Most likely it was the numerous sex scenes and images of a butt-naked Wiseau now forever seared onto my memory (there are some things you just can’t un-see) that made me want that 93 minutes of my life back. Whatever the reason, “The Room” made me feel icky. Having now seen the movie after months and months of hearing all kinds of hype about its cult status, it seems to me that the interest people have in “The Room” isn’t due to the movie itself so much as it is the artistic vision (and performance) of its director, writer and star, Wiseau.
Wiseau plays Johnny, a good guy with a good job, a loving fiancée, Lisa, and a group of devoted friends. But all is not as it seems. While Johnny is completely devoted to his wife-to-be, Lisa’s decided she doesn’t love Johnny, and takes up with his best friend, Mark (we know they’re best friends because it’s stated outright about 60 times during the course of the movie). Johnny discovers their affair, Johnny gets mad, Johnny lashes out. That’s about it. It’s a master class in bad filmmaking, because there’s not a single thing about it that’s right. Wiseau’s script seems cobbled together from stuff he’s heard on movies and after-school specials about drugs and drinking. There is not a speck of subtlety. Wiseau is apparently of the mind that you should tell instead of show since every action is stated right before it’s done.
The acting, as you’d expect, is awful, as exemplified by the infamous line delivered by Lisa’s mother in this clip:
But none of these awful actors can hold a candle to Wiseau’s performance in terms of flat-out weirdness. His accent, for one thing, is impossible to place, but seems to be some amalgam of Eastern European dialects. It’s as thick as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s in “Hercules in New York” with none of the appeal. His stilted English combined with the stilted dialogue makes him seem like he’s got some kind of mental disability (which, given the quality of this movie, he may actually have). It’s impossible to take him seriously, and his delivery makes up most of what’s unintentionally funny about “The Room.”
The best weird bit, however, is Wiseau’s obsession with football and “man talk.” I read an article in the Atlantic once that gave a few examples from the Room showing how Wiseau must view American life. In this America, guys hang around and have completely random conversations while tossing the pigskin around. They tease each other, mainly by referring to each other as “chicken” like this:
There’s no actual playing of real football involved, just throwing and catching. Apparently one can’t have a manly conversation with other men without it.
In watching “The Room,” it seems Wiseau just made a movie that’s crafted from what he thinks a movie is. Men shooting the bull and tossing a ball is just one aspect of that. A movie also, apparently, includes sex. A lot of sex. To be exact, a lot of explicit sex scored to really cheesy R&B with amazingly cliché lyrics that I really hope were created specifically for this movie. It was in these scenes that “The Room” left a bad taste in my mouth. It was funny to watch Wiseau stumble his way through a conversation, or for Lisa’s mom to casually mention that she “definitely (has) breast cancer.” Even the first disgusting sex scene between Johnny and Lisa I could kind of stand, simply because of how over-the-top it was. But when it was every other scene, with practically every scene in between as a predictable setup (the kind usually associated with pornography), I just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t enjoyable, it was downright wrong.
Yet it’s hard to criticize Wiseau for this, because by all accounts, he thought he was making a serious movie. These sex scenes, as gross as they may be, were most likely included because he thought they were edgy. That’s what makes them “funny” (in concept, at least). In any case, it still doesn’t make them any easier to watch.
For someone who loves bad movies, “The Room” is supposed to be tops. It’s the movie people love to hate to love, right up there with “Troll 2” (which I am legitimately fond of). But for me, it really didn’t live up to the hype. I was hoping for the Type 1 epically bad movie. What I got was type 2. And it tore me apart, Lisa. It really, really did.