Cult film The Room – we reflect on the Citizen Kane of crap

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The Room

The Room

Ahead of its return the big screen, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby explores the credentials of a terrible cult classic.

Referring to a movie as “so bad it’s good” is an overused expression. Often when people say it, they’re overstating. This terrible movie is probably of mild interest, something to check out only if you are pushed to the absolute limit of boredom. The Room is an exception to that rule. If anything, with The Room it is an understatement. The Room just keeps finding new, astonishing ways to suck. In a very real way, it is the Citizen Kane of crap.

On October 5, Picturehouse at Fact are hosting The Room‘s co-star Greg Sestero for a special behind the scenes event based on The Room, which could hopefully shed some like on this truly bizarre anti-classic.

The cult of The Room stems from its screenings. The audiences heckle the movie, repeat lines, and best of all throw plastic spoons at the screens (when the time comes, you’ll know)…it’s like a sarcastic Rocky Horror. Writer/director/editor/producer/star Tommy Wiseau – a man who claims to be American, but sounds Eastern European (imagine Christopher Walken attempting a Jean Claude Van Damme impression) – has since tried to save face by backtracking on his heavy romantic drama, re-branding it a black comedy. Not that anyone is fooled.

It has become a mini-phenomenon. References in films such as Role Models and TV shows like Veronica Mars. David Cross is a fan. Alec Baldwin is a fan. Charlie Brooker is a fan. Sestero wrote an acclaimed book called The Disaster Artist that goes behind the scenes of the making of the movie. James Franco has since purchased the movie rights and is producing a big screen adaptation with Seth Rogen. Tommy Wiseau has got the fame he wanted. Not quite in the way he intended, but fame nonetheless.

Wiseau  made his magnum opus in 2003 for $6 million of his own money.  We can’t even begin to describe how badly that money was spent.

First of all, this is absolutely Wiseau’s vanity project. He wrote, directed, produced, edited and starred as lead character Johnny himself. His grasp of the English language is worse than that of the average Sun reader, and he insisted on the lines being read exactly as he wrote them. This leads to such grammatical nightmares as; “You must be kidding, aren’t you?” [sic], “Everybody betray me! I fed up with this world!” [sic]and the worst chicken impressions ever caught on film.

Naturally, there’s plot holes galore. Actually, scratch that. They’re not plot holes as much as plot canyons. One infamous example comes when Lisa, Johnny‘s “future wife” (she’s never referred to as a fiancé) is having a discussion with her mother, in which the latter blurts out “I got the results of the test back. I definitely have breast cancer”. The subject is quickly dropped and never referred to again. Ever. That’s right, the parent of one of the film’s main characters suffering from breast cancer did not impact their lives in the slightest.

Then there’s the characters. Denny might be the most puzzling character in recent film history. He has his own place, but doesn’t seem to function very well as an adult. When Johnny and Lisa are about to embark on one of the film’s hilariously interminable and unflatteringly shot sex scenes (FYI: arse wrinkles and what appears to be naval intercourse? Not sexy), Denny jumps onto the bed and exclaims, with complete sincerity, “I just like to watch you guys“. Eeeew. Yeah, Denny is creepy. He also owes money to a drug dealer. We never find out why.

There’s Peter. He’s a psychologist who is a friend of Johnny‘s. He shows up for about three scenes halfway through the movie. Then the actor playing him got a better job, so he is replaced Bela Lugosi-style by some other dude during a pivotal moment. We don’t know who this other guy is, but he looks like Peter as much as Robbie Coltrane looks like Zac Efron.

The main focus, however, is between Johnny and his “future wife”, and her affair with his “best friend” Mark (don’t worry, they make it abundantly clear that Mark and Johnny are best friends). Perhaps we’re reading too much into it, but in some ways, The Room parallels the New Testament. Like Jesus, Johnny is betrayed. Mary Magdalene is portrayed as a whore, Lisa…likewise. The Bible has the last supper, The Room has Johnny‘s birthday party. Jesus turns water into wine, Johnny turns vodka into skotchka. The protagonists in both texts have names that begin with “J”. The similarities could, of course, be mere coincidence.

We literally cannot do justice to the awesome level of terribleness in this movie. Tommy Wiseau makes Ed Wood look fully competent, and Wood was voted the worst director in history.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no cinema experience like it. We genuinely feel it is something all film fans need to experience. But don’t forget, it’s BYOS (Bring Your Own Spoons).

  • Tommy Wiseau‘s co-star, Greg Sestero, will be appearing at FACT on October 5 as part of promotion for his book The Disaster Artist. It will feature a screening of a behind the scenes documentary on the film, a Q&A and many more surprises for fans of the film.

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