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Film Review – The Room (2003)

It was merely fate that one of my readers would request that I review The Room, and that day is finally here.  Often called the worst movie ever made, Tommy Wiseau’s disasterous creation is somehow more beloved than The Godfather to some.  If nothing else, The Room is evidence that everyone can get their movie made, but not everyone should.  The following review will be spoiler free.

The Room

Synopsis

The Room is directed by and stars Tommy Wiseau in the role of a lifetime with “actors” such as Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero, and Philip Haldiman in supporting roles.

Johnny (Wiseau) is a successful banker that lives in a townhouse in San Francisco with his fiance, Lisa (Danielle).  However, Lisa is quickly becoming dissatisfied with her life, and with Johnny.  As a result, she enters into a secret affair with Johnny’s best friend, Mark (Sestero).

Although he isn’t aware of this fact, Johnny’s life slowly begins to spiral, leading him to question who he truly trusts.

That might have been the most difficult summation yet.

Background

After a dismal original run at the box office (making a mere $1,800 on a $6 million production budget), The Room quickly became a cult favorite for its bizarre story and dialogue.

Initially, Wiseau had written a script for a play that he completed back in 2001.  He later stated that he had turned that script into a 500-page book, but he was never able to get it published.  Instead, Wiseau adapted his writings into a movie that he would produce himself to ensure that his original idea would make it to the big screen.

Although Wiseau has been coy over the years about how he received funding for the project, Sestero later exclaimed that Wiseau was independently wealthy at the time the film began shooting.  However, one thing that is certain is that the budget ballooned due to Wiseau’s incompetencies.  Wiseau insisted on building sets of scenes that could have been shot on location, purchasing unnecessary equipment, and even filming the same scenes multiple times on different sets.  Wiseau routinely would forget his lines, lengthening the process even further.

To top it all off, he even shot the film simultaneously in 35mm film and HD video.  Why you ask?  Because Wiseau wanted to be the first director to film a movie simultaneously in two formats.

The making of this movie may be even more fascinating than the actual movie, which is why James Franco and Seth Rogen are releasing The Disaster Artist based on the book of the same name later this year to document the folly of the deranged dreamer.

The Perfect Storm of Incompetence

The trick behind any attempt at a “so bad its good” film is a genuine try at a good film.  Many people have made an intentionally cheesy or horrible films to seize the title of “cult classic,” but those films don’t capture the spirit of what makes The Room so great.  Wiseau, as incompetent as he might have been, put everything into making an emotional drama.  Each actor, taking the opportunity as their “big break,” does their best with Wiseau’s stilted dialogue.  With these ideas in place, The Room has a disarming quality that makes it that much more than just entertaining.

Maybe even Wiseau’s idea to film in two formats worked out, because The Room looks like a real film.  Where many bad movies fail is creating a realistic atmosphere.  You never subconsciously take these films seriously because they look so terrible at the onset.  However, with The Room, there’s solid enough production value to have your expectations somewhat tricked.

It’s truly unprecented that a film of such poor quality has great production design.  The Room is the last-minute project of a pre-med student that’s only taking a film class for his general education requirements but somehow manages to have a substantial budget.  The only difference is that in this case, the person behind the film did his very best.

This film is a labor of love, and we get a sense of that in every frame, even if it’s not in the traditional sense.

Tommy Wiseau is an Alien

Wiseau is an entity that deserves much study.  The way he talks is not of this world.  It might surprise many, but some lines of dialogue aren’t horrendous in The Room.  Okay, maybe 1% of lines dialogue aren’t wacky.  But, for those select few words, Wiseau still manages to deliver them with the wrong cadence and awkward stresses on the wrong syllables.

His second-grade understanding of the English language bleeds over into the lines of other actors as well.  Combined with pretty terrible direction from Wiseau himself, you have a final product that can’t truly be explained.

Possibly the Most Quotable Movie Ever Made

Wiseau managed to create dialogue that’s instantly memorable, just not the way he intended.  Talking points are brought up out of the blue while potentially important character moments are tossed aside for more time for our main characters to throw the football around.  This combination amounts to a film that may be the best visual representation of ADD.

There’s such an astonishing misunderstanding of human connection.  It’s almost as if Wiseau took each line of dialogue, shuffled them up, and then randomly assigned them to each actor.  It’s more mind-blowing than the ending to The Usual Suspects.

However, although The Room deserves bashing, one can’t deny the amount of pure entertainment that it exudes.  People have rigorously studied this film, making all discussion here somewhat of a rehash.  But, what many fail to bring up is that The Room is legimately one of the more popular films ever made.  How often do you see sold-out screenings of Citizen Kane with an incredibly enthusiastic audience that is fully engaged in the experience?  The Room tapped into something that many don’t understand, and it hasn’t been replicated since.

Final Thoughts

The Room is an all-time classic for all the wrong reasons.  Even the most mundane piece of dialogue will make you chuckle, proving that filmmaking isn’t for everyone.  Calling the “film” a “folly” just wouldn’t do it justice.  It won’t be for everyone mostly because some people just don’t enjoy bad movies, but those who enjoy a nice guilty pleasure will find an incredible amount of entertainment in The Room.

I wouldn’t be able to call myself a critic anymore if I gave this movie anything but an F, but it absolutely deserves an A+ in terms of entertainment value.

One last thing: Ohh hi, Mark!

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Nick Kush

A current college student, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

19 Responses

  1. Steve says:

    Wiseau’s a one hit wonder 😉 Neil Breen(!) somehow consistently delivers the goods, each of his new films somehow getting worse and worse as if he is failing miserably in his studies of our species and our interactions with each other.

    • Nick Kush says:

      Neil Breen is soooooo great. I was turned on to him by watching Red Letter Media. They watched one of his films and nearly went into some type of otherwordly state lol

  2. Jasmine M says:

    “You’re tearing me to pieces, Nick!” (Or was it “apart,” lol?)

    I saw a news piece about this film some years ago, and it’s somehow stuck in my head just from that. I sure as heck won’t spend money to see it, but if the streaming services I use have it, I’ll be all over that.

    I recently got the appeal of horrible movies (“So bad, they’re good!”) after watching some awful sci-fi ones with my family. The main secret is that you need someone to watch it with in person or even narrate the highlights to via live chatting. Laughing about it together is the best part.

    Another key is that it can’t be just be the “blah”/boring type of bad, like some films I’ve watched. Those just make you genuinely angry and disappointed that you’ve just been lured into wasting 90 minutes or more of your life and free time.

    No, it has to be so outlandishly bad that even when potentially gruesome horror moments come along unexpectedly, it ends up being more hilarious (and thus enjoyable) than disturbing.

    And this movie sounds like it’s actually terrible enough to even be entertaining to watch alone…though I’ll definitely still have to share!

  3. Tricia says:

    Now I need to check this out. This is my first introduction to the film. I enjoy exploring cult classics.

  4. I really need to see this film before The Disaster Artist comes out! It seems necessary, especially as I’ve always heard “great things” about The Room.

  5. I can thank the Nostalgia Critic for introducing me to this beautiful trainwreak. We can all agree that as a serious movie, it fails in such a spectacular level. As an unintentional comedy, it’s utter gold! As such, let’s all just post quotes from this beautiful disaster.

    Mark: How was work today?
    Johnny: Oh pretty good. We got a new client… at the bank. We make a lot of money.
    Mark: What client?
    Johnny: I cannot tell you, it’s confidential.
    Mark: Oh come on. Why not?
    Johnny: No I can’t. Anyway, how’s your sex life?
    -Nostalgia Critic spitting out his water-
    Mark: I can’t talk about it.
    Johnny: Why not?
    Nostalgia Critic: WHY NOT?! How about you just brought it the f— out of nowhere you…WEIRD ALIEN MAN?!

    OK, that was actually from the N.C. review, but it belongs there since no normal human being ever brings that topic up in regular conversation.

    • Nick Kush says:

      LOL that’s probably my favorite moment in the movie. I remember the first time I watched the film, I was in tears at that point.

    • Jasmine M says:

      Dear Lord, I’m in tears just reading that—the dialogue is hilariously bad and doesn’t follow the grammatical/logical rules used in speech—rules already more casual than those of written formats, mind you!—and the reviewer’s reactions make it that much better. Now I’ll have to go check out that review, too.

      Thank you for sharing this!

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