The Room – A Cult Classic (?) Review (Kind of?)

The Room is infamous for how awful it is. The film written, produced, directed, and starring Tommy Wiseau is one of those terrible movies that have become so popular, it has become the stuff of legends. Stories, both true and false, such as how the film was funded by the mafia and the insanity of the shoot and Wiseau’s inflated ego has risen as some of the most insane stories to come out of Hollywood in recent years. The true story of the making of was chronicled well in Greg Sistero’s (who starred as Mark) book, The Disaster Artist. But with all these stories describing the behind the scenes of the movie, I always have had the sense that Wiseau wanted none of this, except for the fame. Here is a man who tried to create a masterpiece in the vein of Tennessee Williams, but came up wicked short of the mark. He is a man who wanted to find true artistry and praise, but only found infamy.

I showed the film to several friends for the first time recently and they enjoyed laughing and ridiculing the film. And it is fun to do so. To laugh at the nonsensical plot, to mock the many “Oh hi” lines, to scream “you’re tearing me apart!!!” in unison. But after all the laughter has ended, the fact remains we are making fun of someone’s hard work, and I started to feel bad for Wiseau.  When we watch a terrible movie, we criticize it, which is perfectly fine, and we make fun of it.  But then I start asking myself, is it okay to laugh at the insanity on display?

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Let’s take a step back and look at the film objectively. As much as Wiseau currently claims that the movie is a black comedy, let’s not kid ourselves, this is a drama that was supposed to reflect the dark side of love and friendship and relationships. But it’s not a good one.  In fact, it’s shit.  It’s a bad movie that is hard to take seriously.  Any claim by Wiseau that he purposely made this film as a comedy is a false one. It is simply Wiseau attempting to save face and embrace the fandom of the film.

The fact that this film has fans is the biggest compliment/praise to give the film.  Because almost everything else is horrid.  The dialogue is atrocious and forced. The characters always say they are busy but then continue to hold conversations that go nowhere. Subplots are introduced and dropped at random. Characters are one dimensional and do not act like normal humans. The most well defined character is Mark, because at least he questions whether his relationship with Lisa is healthy or not. Then there is the ugly cinematography, the reused sex scenes that last way too long and Denny.  Creepy weirdo-neighbor-pseudo-adopted-son-pervert-drug-addict Denny.

So critiquing the film is easy because it is objectively bad.  It is one of those films that is so bad it’s entertaining to watch the failure unfold.  And Wiseau has allowed the public to take some schadenfreude from the film, to watch the film for entertainment and for laughs.  Wiseau has found success from this film.  He has created a television series, video shorts, and landed acting gigs because of this film.  The cult status of this film have given him recognition and fame from the film community.  But is that enough for him?

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Some have claimed to see the sadness in his eyes whenever Wiseau attends a midnight screening and witnesses fans hurl plastic spoons at the screen.  While the audience partakes in the story and relishes the fun and insanity of fellow midnight classic Rocky Horror Picture Show, the fans of The Room interact by literally throwing things at the screen and laughing at spoken lines and character decisions.  The Room is all too easy to mock and ridicule, and that is where I feel some guilt for laughing at the film.  Wiseau wanted to make a classic film that could compete with Citizen Kane.  Instead he made a film where we laugh at characters play football in tuxedos.  I empathize with that plight and that artistic struggle for people to appreciate one’s art.  I can relate to that sadness he might feel as people mock his work and laugh at his creation.  It takes a lot of strength to handle a barrage of criticism and still poke fun at one’s work.

Ultimate, it is okay to criticize a piece of art for its shortcomings.  As an audience, we have the right to say whether a film is good or bad.  A filmmaker releases a film to be seen.  Those who see it have the possibility to be moved, entertained, enraptured, horrified, repulsed, or seduced by the film.  The Room is no different from any other film released to the public.  We have the choice to praise or critique a film.  And when a filmmaker allows the audience to be open with the film and indulge in the conversations and humor born from the film, then that cannot be criticized.

After all, it is entertaining people and people are paying to see it.  Wiseau has found financial success from his creation.  He has been embraced by a collection of film fans.  People love The Room precisely because of its shortcomings.  At least Tommy Wiseau understands that.  It’s not as if he doesn’t comprehend the truth behind the fandom, behind his infamy.

Because Wiseau has made it publicly acceptable to embrace this film for its failures, I think it is okay for me to laugh at it and satirize it.  I still feel slightly bad for him because I don’t believe it was his intent to make a bad film.  I just think he didn’t really know what he was doing.  Unlike many of us, Wiseau has found success from his failures, which cannot be denied or taken away from him.  He has fond fame and has embraced his fans and the community that love to watch The Room.  And that should be lauded.

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