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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Film Review - The Room (2003)

Tommy Wiseau wrote, directed and starred in the Room, a strange ad utterly perfect “Bad Movie” that just may be one of the most surreal and entertaining films ever released.  The thin plot follows Johnny, a happy man who is to be wed to Lisa, a selfish woman who is bored with their long-time engagement and is seeking escape in the arms of another man.  The other man in question is Mark, Johnny’s best friend, who is perpetually confused by his affair with Lisa.  In between bouts of sex with the two men in her life, Lisa repeats the same circular discussion with her mother, who wishes Lisa to be wed to Johnny for fiscal security.  These events repeat over and over and the pressure builds until the film’s ultimate climax.

The Room is a special type of bad film.  It’s not like other disasters like Waterworld and Batman and Robin because it is so sincere with itself, so serious and so senseless that it creates an air of self-congratulation.  It’s kind of like the one guy in high school who has convinced himself that he is the best at everything, and everyone watches perplexedly as he fumbles one attempt at success after another.  When watching the Room, it is evident that all involved had convinced themselves they were making a five-star best picture nominee.  Now, considering the cost and work that goes into filmmaking, it’s insane to think that anyone would go in to make a bad movie intentionally.  Some films are bad because they are lazy or cynical or just plain poorly executed.  The Room is different.  The Room exists in a strange version of reality where characters travel through time, read each other’s minds, speak in strange mumbling catchphrases and behave in ways that no living person anywhere does.  While watching some of the things that occur in the Room, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that Wiseau has no idea how anyone, especially men, interact in the real world.

There are a number of infamous scenes in the Room that have gone viral online, and over the last couple of years the Room has picked up a sort of second life years after its initial release.  The film is now one of those famous bad movies that I believe holds up to multiple viewings.  It is consistently funny because of its strange distorted version of human behavior.  Just watching the way these characters sweep the floor, play football and even have sex is baffling.  Nobody in the real world even speaks the way the characters in this movie do.  The only thing I can think of is that either the Room is an examination of the banality of urban life or it is written by a man who has never held a conversation with another person… ever.

The characters in the Room are equally strange.  They are barely defined, instead filling simple two-dimensional representations of the simplest possible understanding of what it is like to be a young adult in the city.  For starters, Johnny works at a bank and is awaiting his “big promotion”.  He is over nice all the time and is meant to represent the “perfect man” before his big fall.  Lisa is the “spoiled, selfish girl” who, for no apparent reason aside from being bored wants to leave her fiancé Johnny for his best friend.  However, instead of speaking to him, she sneaks around on him, claiming to care for his feelings but then proceeding to rub his nose in all of her indiscretions.  The best friend is Mark; we never learn anything about him.  Denny is a teenager who is infatuated with Johnny and Lisa.  We learn that he is orphaned and Johnny helped him out, but he consistently exhibits the behavior of some sort of sexual deviant.  We meet a few minor characters too, like Lisa’s mother, but none of them really have anything to do with the story at all.

This leads me to the bizarre scenes where Lisa tells her mother how unhappy she is, over and over and over.  Her mother then proceeds to say she needs Johnny for security.  This same discussion occurs several times, slowing the movie down to a snail’s-pace.  These scenes just add to the long list of pointless moments in the film.  Boy, oh boy are there a lot of them.

Let’s start with the transitional shots of San Francisco.  At times, they are inserted into the middle of scenes where there was no need for them whatsoever.  They are overlong and they break up the flow of the “story?”  Then there are the scenes that are brought up and never talked about again.  There’s the scene where Denny is held at gunpoint on a rooftop before he is saved by Johnny and Mark.  Apparently he owed money to a drug dealer, however after that scene, the whole drug-dealer-about-to-kill-Denny thing is never brought up again.  Another completely pointless moment is the ten-second discussion between Lisa and her mother about how the elder woman has breast cancer.  Lisa’s response to the news is simply “You’ll be fine” and cancer is never addressed again.  In fact, if you shave all of the pointless scenes out of this film, it would probably run about twenty minutes. 

Finally there are the funny moments.  A friend of mine declared that the Room is one of the funniest movies he’s ever seen.  I’m inclined to agree.  The Room is so unintentionally funny that during viewing we found ourselves rewinding a few times just so we can hear what we missed because we were still laughing from the last horribly-executed line of dialogue.  I’m going to give this one a special treatment.  I’ve tried to give an honest, professional review of this film, but I’m done with that.  Wait ‘til next time…

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