‘Jesus Christ bananas’ entry: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room

18 Jul

I like a bad movie every once in a while.

There was a time when I spent a lot, a LOT of time on bad movies. Then I realized that my time on earth is finite, and that I’d rather fill that time with earnest films made by talented and creative directors than with films whose own makers were either slumming geniuses or complete whackos.

That said, I still like a bad movie once in a while.

The Room came at me sideways like a crack addict waving around the razor-sharp skeleton of a dead large-mouthed bass.

There was no way to see this coming. No warning, no review has yet captured exactly how execrable this film is. Nostradamus might’ve seen it coming, but he would have written it down as some vague ‘and there will come a stringy man of taut thews and stygian hair who is either madman or genius, who shall entertain and terrify in the same fell swoop. And that man shall not speak truths but mumbles.’  That could refer to any number of filmmakers. Hell, that could be Joaquin Phoenix’s recent dabblings with madness.

Yup. That's about it.

Anyhoo, I’d heard a few things about ‘The Room’ and when a friend invited us over to watch, I went willingly. For some reason I thought it was a horror movie.

I wasn’t completely wrong.

‘The Room’ is the story of Johnny (Tommy Wiseau, who is also writer, director, and executive producer), a man who loves his fiancee Lisa, has a job where he makes good money, and seems to be the risen messiah in every other aspect of his life. He ‘rescued’ a troubled youth and is sending him to college, no one can shut up about how great he is, and the only time people don’t like him is if he doesn’t loan them money. Otherwise, the rest of the cast stand around singing jeremiads for the man.

The inciting incident of the story is that the aforementioned fiancee suddenly decides she doesn’t love him anymore and that he is boring. The rest of the film unfolds (or maybe ‘metastasizes’ is a  better word) in a bitter lovers’ triangle with Lisa cheating on Johnny, having long boring conversations with her mother about it, and Johnny’s best friend Mark being sort of conflicted about diddling Johnny’s fiancee.

Logic has no place here. The film staggers to its conclusion less like a picturesque and drunken Irish poet than a paralytic hobo whose palsied fingers can barely hold onto his bottle of methyl alcohol.

Consider this scene: There’s Johnny (Wiseau) talking to his friend Mark (colleague Greg Sesteros) about Lisa.

Johnny did not hit Lisa, she just got him really drunk and then tried to convince him he did, and Mark is the guy she’s cheating on Johnny with. The acting on display here is on par with the rest of the movie. Erratic tonal shifts, bizarre dialogue, nonsensical actions taken by the actors, plot threads that never pan out or are abandoned (Lisa’s mother offhandedly  mentions she has breast cancer once and this is never again addressed) and sex scenes that make one reach for a bottle of Purell are all part of the package.

But while the movie is indeed embarrassingly awful, I can’t get into the spirit of mocking it as much as others have.  Mr. Wiseau spent five years of his life raising funding for the film, and it’s suspected he did so through ‘less than legitimate’ means: there’s a story about him importing leather jackets from Korea that sounds fairly shady, and other people have suggested the movie exists as an elaborate money laundering scheme for the mob.

Although now he promotes the movie as a Rocky Horror Picture Show-like parody and travels to midnight screenings where people throw spoons and footballs (it’s in the movie), some of the actors from the film indicate that Mr. Wiseau was absolutely earnest in his intent when making it in 2003 and that there was nothing tongue-in-cheek about his attitude.

I can’t help but imagine someone who managed to make his creative dream come true witness his film be reviled by the few critics who saw it, then embraced by an audience whose self-professed love of shit is damning praise. Maybe at that point he decided that any publicity is better than none. It’s my own secret dream (as it is most critics’) to make a film of my own, and since I don’t have the courage or means to pursue such a dream and I consciously know this, I can’t help but feel bad bashing the product of someone who managed to pursue it themselves. Even so, this is one incredibly bad movie. Let’s be absolutely clear on that.

There's a reason you always see this image in connection with the movie. You just have to see it.

I’m not someone who enjoys laughing at the efforts of others, unless they really want me to. If Mr. Wiseau convinces me of his earnest effort to create a black comedy, well, I guess I can laugh at his film then.

‘The Room’ is not available on Instant Watch but can be rented from Netflix or GreenCine. Check it out, but for God’s sake, know what you’re getting into!

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2 Responses to “‘Jesus Christ bananas’ entry: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room”

  1. Drew July 19, 2010 at 12:26 am #

    Well, my friends Tommy will say: “You can laugh you can cry you can express yourself but please don’t hurt each other!” I think that your comments are correct however I saw Tommy several times already and this man is dedicated to his acting and creations. I don’t think that it did happen by accident. Tommy is a very createve person see some of the clips on YOU-Tube (search Wiseau) you will see his interaction with fans. I think he he has appearance in San Diego on July 23 (check “The Room” website for it. Also, I agreed with you that it is difficult to make any movie and some members of American media are not as keen to Tommy’s projects. Maybe Tommy should direct next Twilight, the man has great ideas. The actor, Paul Rudd said that he will not comment in negative way about “The Room” (he knows better) and he is wright about it. Tommy’s work is a very special one and the fact is his movie “The Room” has been in circulation for over 7 years in theaters. Great WORK Tommy and we LOVE YOU for giving us “The Room” and we want more of your work!

    • jennnanigans July 19, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

      I think it’s clear by his work and his manner that he’s a multifaceted personality with a lot to offer the film world, or anything he sets his mind to. If I ever met him I’d definitely thank him for continuing to do what he does–from my observations I know that being an independent filmmaker in Hollywood can be very trying, so a lot of people in his position might have given up before their film was even finished. As someone who’s never even tried, I am definitely in awe of anyone who manages to pursue and realizes their dream.

      Thanks for the comment, and for reading!

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