The Room (2003)
Directed by: Tommy Wiseau
Starring: Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero, Philip Haldiman, Carolyn Minnott, Robyn Paris, Mike Holmes, Dan Janjigian, Kyle Vogt, Greg Ellery
“You know what you need? You need a drink.” – Lisa
Lisa is talking to Johnny, but he’s not the only one who needs a drink. You’ll need one too if you want to survive The Room, the brainchild of one Tommy Wiseau, a guy who, according to IMDB, trained to be an actor at the American Conservatory Theater, Vince Chase Workshop, Jean Shelton Acting Lab, Laney College, and the Stella Adler Academy of Acting. None of these organizations – not one – did him any bit of good. You may have heard about The Room – it’s infamous in the same manner as Birdemic: Shock and Terror, except that it’s horrible in a completely different way. Strange as it may seem, in some ways it’s worse than Birdemic because it’s more boring, and instead of bad CGI birds we get bad CGI people. But before we continue our dissection of The Room, I must warn you about Tommy Wiseau. He is incomprehensible and incorrigible. At least with Birdemic, I kinda understood where James Nguyen was coming from – the guy is an environmentalist type who wants to save the world from global warming. But Wiseau – I have no idea where Wiseau is coming from, and if you told me you understood him, I wouldn’t believe you for a second. With The Room, Wiseau doesn’t seem to have a purpose, other than to torment the audience. He doesn’t seem to have a grasp on drama, decent dialogue, believable characters, plot logic, human interaction, or reality. He is truly… an enigma.
Whatever you have heard about The Room, understand that the closest thing it approximates is some softcore porn flick on late night Skinemax. Maybe it wants to be like the Red Shoe Diaries. I say this because in the first 30 minutes, we have already sat through three practically interminable sex scenes that have been shot through soft filter set to R&B music. Writer/director/star Wiseau hides his camera behind banisters, curtains, and a bed canopy, occasionally panning over just enough to see his bare naked rear end thrusting against Juliette Danielle (the poor girl). I could have gone my entire life without seeing Tommy Wiseau in the buff. (I warn you, viewer: what is seen cannot be unseen.) Anyway, the plot concerns San Francisco couple Johnny (Wiseau) and his fiancée Lisa (Danielle) who – even though she tells Johnny she loves him and has no problem making love to him – is actually miserable in their relationship (she finds him “boring”) and decides to live dangerously by calling his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero) over the house one day and seducing him. She tells Mark that she loves him too, and has sex with him with the same emotional investment that she has with her fiancée, which means nothing she says or does can be trusted. But – and here’s where it gets tricky – Lisa is untrustworthy not so much because this comes out in Danielle’s performance, but simply because the plot requires her to be. If the plot requires her to be in love with Johnny one moment and then hate him the next moment, then that’s what happens. But the plot of The Room requires almost everyone to be illogical. When Lisa’s materialistic mom (Carolyn Minnott) stops by for one of their annoying little chats, she casually lets loose this little tidbit: “I definitely have breast cancer.” And then she continues on like it was a case of hemorrhoids. The kicker – her daughter treats it the same way!
But at least Juliette Danielle’s performance is filled with some kind of believable emotion (sometimes). Wiseau’s “acting” is one for the books. It’s not merely bad, it’s bad in a way that only Wiseau can deliver. First of all, the man looks like he is off on another planet somewhere. He has this crazy accent that I cannot pin down. Apparently he lived in France at one time and lived in New Orleans at one time, but I can’t hear anything resembling a French or Creole accent. I don’t know what it is; it’s from… somewhere else, somewhere far away. Get my drift? He speaks with a kind of slur, like he is constantly drunk or stoned. He delivers lines like run-on sentences, sometimes putting stress in weird places, sometimes accompanied by a freaky little chuckle. Twice he teases people by calling them chicken and then making a “cheep cheep cheep” noise. He says he’s American, but I’m more concerned about whether he’s Terran. I would say he represents the whole film in this regard – The Room seems like it was written, directed, and performed by aliens who are trying to approximate human behavior. What do whales think when humans try to play their songs back to them? What would we think if an alien race tried to reproduce a human drama without truly comprehending it? I think it would look like The Room.
Why don’t we sample some choice dialogue?
Lisa: Mom, I don’t love Johnny anymore. I don’t even like him. I had sex with someone else.
Claudette: You can’t be serious. Who is it?
Lisa: I don’t want to talk about it.
Claudette: You don’t want to talk about it? Then why did you bring it up in the first place?
Lisa: I don’t know.
Johnny: We got a new client at the bank.
Mark: What client?
Johnny: I cannot tell you. It’s confidential.
Mark: Aww, come on, why not?
Johnny: No, I can’t. Anyway, how’s your sex life?
Lisa: Did you get your promotion?
Lisa: You didn’t get it, did you?
Mark: I used to know a girl; she had a dozen guys. One of them found out about it… beat her up so bad she ended up at a hospital on Guerrero Street.
Johnny: Ha ha ha. What a story, Mark.
This one was obviously dubbed over in post, but you must read it like a run-on sentence, with hardly any beats at all:
Johnny: [walks into flower shop] Hi.
Flower Shop Clerk: Can I help you?
Johnny: Yeah, can I have a dozen red roses, please?
Clerk: Oh, hi, Johnny. I didn’t know it was you. Here you go.
Johnny: That’s me. How much is it?
Clerk: It’ll be eighteen dollars.
Johnny: Here you go. Keep the change. [Sees small dog on countertop] Hi, doggy.
Clerk: You’re my favorite customer.
Johnny: Thanks a lot. Bye!
- Johnny and Lisa’s “adopted” kid Denny (Philip Haldiman), who seems to have a crush on both of them (don’t ask) and gets involved with a drug dealer in one scene that has nothing to do with anything else in the film.
- Lisa’s tendency to talk to everybody about how manipulative she is and then say “I don’t want to talk about it.”
- The fascination with certain settings, like the shots of the Golden Gate Bridge which act as a segue between scenes, or the mini pillow fights between characters, or the constant football tossing between all the male actors, no matter where they are or what they are wearing.
- Characters who inexplicably disappear (Kyle Vogt) and characters who suddenly appear late (Greg Ellery).
- Johnny humping Lisa’s red dress.
- Characters who ask “What’s bothering you?” or “What’s wrong?” after the person has already told them the answer.
- The ridiculous party scene where Lisa says “Hey everybody, let’s go outside for some fresh air” and everyone obeys her immediately, without question. Then she tries to get alone time with Mark without even bothering to lock the door. Actually, the party scene is funny because the supporting characters who are let onto Lisa’s duplicity are increasingly incredulous about her irrational behavior (even they can’t believe the inconsistencies!)
By the time you get to the “sad” ending (if you get that far), I guarantee you still won’t know what to think about Tommy Wiseau. My best guess is that he was hurt real bad by a woman, but that really only explains the plot of The Room, not all of the oddities lurking in the depths of this thing. Basically, the whole movie was created by a guy who has a very strange interpretation of emotions or real human interaction. The Room has become a cult favorite thanks to its unintentional hilarity, but personally, I think people are re-watching it with the hope that they will spot clues to solving the unanswered question: just who, or what… is Tommy Wiseau?
– Bill Gordon