The Room (2003) Review

Infamous, bordering on legendary, “The Room”, reigning champion of The Worst Movie Ever MadeTM has long been a treasured guilty…if not pleasure, then amusement for movie fans but thanks to James Franco’s forthcoming making-of docu-comedy “The Disaster Artist”, a whole new audience are becoming aware of it. Do they know what they’re letting themselves in for?

Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) is a successful banker, living happily in a San Francisco townhouse with his fiancée future wife, Lisa (Juliette Danielle). One day, abruptly, she decides she has fallen out of love with Johnny and decides to seduce his best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero).

From his very first line, Wiseau is terrible. As an actor, he’s abysmal, as a screenwriter, he’s risible, as a director and producer, he’s borderline criminal but somehow, fusing the roles together, he discovers a way to invert the very fabric of cinematic reality, crushing it into a super dense singularity of awfulness.

Throughout the film, it carries the awkward tension of a comedy sketch. It’s so clumsy and inept that it’s hard to believe it’s not some kind of joke and the nervous titters of a cringing, tense studio audience wouldn’t be out of place at all. It’s so…so stupid, and badly acted by everyone involved. Just when you’re starting to think it has the stilted dialogue, non-sequitur plotting and cheap, stiff production values of a particularly naff porno, along comes the first of several (there are three in the first twenty-five minutes) atrocious sex scenes that aren’t just bad, they’re excruciating. It’s all soft focus (or maybe just out of focus), softcore late night telly stuff but its done with such portentous ego-driven earnestness that it’s anything but titillating.

In amongst the threadbare main…erm…plot (for want of a more accurate term) of Lisa’s betrayal of Johnny, there are a myriad of half-formed subplots, none of which are explored, developed or even remotely resolved by the time the movie ends. They may be artefacts of the much longer script which was heavily edited by the cast and crew during filming as much of it was simply unsayable. Yes, as you watch this bizarre affair play out on screen, contemplate the fact there was, apparently, material worse than that which made it on screen.

Much of the middle of the film (nothing between the second sex scene and the birthday party has any effect or bearing on the main storyline) is dominated by scenes between Lisa and her mother Claudette (Carolyn Minnott). Their exchanges crackle with all the drama and energy of a mediocre “Everybody Loves Raymond” fan film and there’s more than a little hint of a cut-price Doris Roberts in Carolyn Minnott’s naggy, incongruous performance.

The talent-free final act is such a cavalcade of hilariously bad filmmaking, from the hokey-cokey birthday party (who’d have thought in all the corner-cutting and cheapness, this film would have the money to pay the royalties to use the actual ‘Happy Birthday’ song) where the guests are ushered outside, then back in, then outside again with no rhyme or reason to the fight scene which – against all laws of probability and possibility – is even worse than the sex scenes, that it can at least honestly claim to deliver a jaw-dropping finale.

Wiseau’s barely conscious screen presence is fascinating to watch but he was clearly asleep at the wheel for every other aspect of this production. “The Room” stands cocked head and slumped shoulders over other ‘so bad it’s good’ movies. It’s so horrendously terrible that ‘bad’ is something it can only aspire to. Yet it’s something everyone should probably see at least once and, like the most gruesome car crash, you’ll hate to watch but you won’t be able to look away. It’s a curate’s turd of a movie, but with “The Disaster Artist” about to give it an Oscar buzz-worthy polish, isn’t it time you joined its cult following?