Friday, January 1, 2016

The Room (2003)

This movie has been talked about over and over. It's the Troll 2 of our generation. Something in us is just fascinated by bad, bad movies, and not the kind that ends up boring. No – we like the fucking weird, whacked out bizarre crap that we can't stop talking about. The stuff that has the worst possible, most ridiculous scenes, characters and dialogue. The Room is exactly that, the pinnacle of that.

Director: Tommy Wiseau
Starring: Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero

Co-written with Michelle.

If you really don't know, this is a writer-director-actor project by Tommy Wiseau, a fantastic bizarre alien from unknown origins. It's about him playing this guy Johnny, a super great dude who has a vague job that is never explained, and his fiance Lisa, who cheats on him with his best friend Mark. If you don't get that, well, don't worry. There are enough sex scenes in this thing to replace all the porn in your backlog for the next two months.

Oh yeah, his man tits sure turn me on.

These sex scenes are, if you never heard, all filmed to the soundtrack of terrible, terrible fucking emo rock songs from the early '00s when this was filmed. Even 14-year-olds going through break ups would hear these songs and say, wow, those songs are fucking terrible. I also love how overly long these scenes are, as it's a great way to develop character. Oh wait, I mean show off Tommy's ass:

I'm sorry, I'm just so sorry...

After that sex scene which was longer than most actual sex scenes in real life, we get Lisa talking to her mother, Claudette. Lisa, despite acting like she liked Johnny before and having passionate sex with him, now says she doesn't love him and she wants to break up with him. Her mom is a pastiche of 1960s sexist cliches, spouting off about how Lisa can't provide for herself and needs Johnny's income to survive. I get the idea this woman has had about five past husbands, all of them having died mysteriously.

Oh, and there's one scene where she casually admits she has breast cancer and is dying. This is never brought up again, and nobody ever seems to care. It's literally never even mentioned again after this one scene. It's so backwards and wrongheaded, I'm tempted to think it's actually a brilliant commentary on something. But then again, that's what I say every time I see unspeakable and callous cruelty, so what do I know?

Johnny himself is a marvel, a man who can seemingly barely keep his fucking eyes open, while at the same time being able to hold down a job that keeps him busy all day, multiple friends who all love and revere him, and of course somehow he got Lisa, who was apparently a great person who would wait around for him all day and fuck him as soon as he got home, until recently when she decided she didn't love him for no reason. Phew. I need to take a breath. Most of the time, Tommy Wiseau looks like he is about to fall asleep on camera.

There's also Denny, a mysterious man child, anywhere from 19 to 35, who constantly appears in the doorway like a phantom. In his first scene, he enters their apartment without knocking or asking, says he wants to hang out, and they immediately go upstairs to fuck. He follows them, because what ARE social cues anyway? Are they ancient relics from a distant past? I guess it's pretty rude for them to go upstairs and have sex the second he comes over, but can you blame them for being in the mood? Look at that face:

And after they go upstairs, this happens, because we didn't have enough reasons to fear this character yet:

What the hell? Isn't this the kind of behavior and look of a man about to commit a murder-suicide? "He was a quiet man, so normal..."

Denny is the human mystery. He is the missing link. He is the reason mankind can't make sense of anything at all and can't find a true link with God. And he's here, in this movie. He is the one who holds all the secrets of the universe, and they can be found in his dead eyes as he stares at the moon each night with emptiness and nothing in his soul. He will be here long after the rest of us are gone. Denny is the alpha and the omega.

The movie is full of characters just appearing at random in rooms after previously not being there. The dialogue is all written as if spoken by a space alien who originally learned Cantonese and is now being forced at gunpoint to read an English sentence. The scenes just repeat and repeat, like some kind of horrible Ouroboros nightmare: Lisa has sex with Johnny or Mark, and then bitches to her mom about how she doesn't love Johnny. But she can't call it off because she doesn't want to be mean. So she'll just keep cheating on him instead, y'know, like a nice person. That one sequence happens like, six times within the first hour of the movie. It's like the characters are stuck in an endless loop. They might be in Hell.

Oh, and there's one scene where Denny has a run in with an extremely tall, menacing drug dealer who shoves a gun in his face. Johnny and Mark immediately rush out from nowhere, I guess having been hiding and waiting for the best moment to intervene, and carry off the drug dealer with no resistance from him. He is never seen again. Johnny claims they took him to the police, but how do we know that? I think this deserves more scrutiny. But not too much. Only as much as Johnny and Mark would allow without taking me “to the police” too. Cough. Hack. Wheeze.

Look for a body washed up on the riverbank in a poor area of town...uh, I mean, DON'T do that...

Meanwhile, Denny, Lisa and Claudette have perhaps the least convincing and least helpful intervention ever, as they basically just stand around pulling on each other's clothing, crying and shouting at one another.

Let's instead talk about how all the characters constantly hold footballs for no reason. Mark is the kind of guy who sits on the rooftop of his building to think, with a football in his lap. I guess that's what gets his brain going. Footballs in general are treated like sacred objects in this film. They are everywhere, and the characters play football apropos of nothing multiple times. It's like Tommy Wiseau really just wanted to include every American stereotype, the most hollow markers of what it means to be a man in this country.

Except Denny. He will never be a man. Because, frankly, he is more than a man. He is a god in human form.

There's also a scene later where, at a birthday party for Johnny, Lisa reveals she's pregnant, and then secretly confides to her friends that she was making it up for fun. Wow. That's an unabashedly shitty, awful thing to do. But she still doesn't break up with him, because again, she doesn't want to be mean to him! Wow. It's like Tommy Wiseau is just painting her out to be the perfect, unrealistically awful girlfriend, almost like he wants to tell this story about her to make a hamfisted point.

The ending involves him finding out that Lisa and Mark were fucking behind his back, and going on a tantrum and destroying everything in his house. Then he just straight up shoots himself in the head. Wow, is he really putting himself at the center of this thing, like some kind of forlorn, Greek tragic hero? He's saying he's completely blameless in this, an innocent victim, preyed upon by people out to do him harm for no reason other than their own malice! They're practically Disney villain-esque!

Favorite part about this scene is how Lisa asks if he is dead. Uh, I dunno. Check his pulse.
Hey, don't you know that's how you get corpse AIDS? Get your mouth off his filthy head.

It's so completely crazy and one sided. There's no reason for these characters to act the way they do. It's like Tommy is this unreliable narrator, just telling you he's the greatest guy ever and his evil witch of a girlfriend cheated on him, and aren't women just the WORST? It's totally ludicrous. That along with the horrible acting, the writing, the random scenes that come out of nowhere like hurled balls of flaming garbage and then evaporate into nothing - it's all just so fucking insane.

And yet, the film comes off as surprisingly genuine.

Yeah. I mean, it's still hilarious to watch, don't get me wrong. But there's a lot of heart and passion in The Room. This movie has soul and feeling to it that many others do not. It was all 100% Tommy Wiseau, with everything that happens reflecting his own warped, but strangely endearing, worldview. He lives in such a simplistic world. Everything is black and white – he did nothing wrong at all and is trying to be the best man he can be. But everyone turns against him, for no reason – it's kind of a weird, Kafkaesque world where nothing makes sense and so the sadness and misery the main character experiences are that much more affecting. Or, well, they would be if this was a different movie, let's not get any illusions here. But you can see the intent! That's important to me.

There's just such a bizarre, unique, unfiltered, raw passion to The Room. It was a labor of love for Wiseau. He told this fucked up, weird, badly told story the way he wanted. That's kinda cool to me – it's respectable. He just went for what he wanted to do and didn't compromise at all. That's a fuck of a lot better than watching films controlled by corporate whore studios and measured for maximum ratings with focus groups and box office sales in mind. The Room is a piece of art, if you allow that art and things you can laugh at are not mutually exclusive.

There's an integrity to this, no matter how goofy it gets, that lends itself to a raw, weird passion. You don't get that all the time with big studio movies, with their super-controlled and calculated ideas. This is a rare moment of complete honesty. It's unabashed, wild honesty – Wiseau's account of what happened is childish, biased and completely human. It's what you'd hear if your best friend called you up right after a difficult break up. He's telling you his side of the story, as dumb and over-dramatic as it is. Every interaction and every reaction to things is so earnestly childish, colored with the naivete of a foreign child seeing America for the first time after hearing about it all his life. Every scene shows how Tommy sees America and the world. There's no filter and it's fascinating.

You know, maybe I was too quick to judge The Room. Maybe using movies like this for cheap mockery and memes was the wrong approach. Maybe despite the ridiculous qualities this movie has, it can also show us something interesting. It can show us interesting things about people and how we make art, and how this one warped view of reality created a whole world around itself, which became The Room. Maybe there's more to most movies than a funnily-delivered line of dialogue, or a goofy accent.

I think The Room is pretty great. You should give it a shot and enjoy it for all the ludicrousness, but also the passion and the individuality behind it, the bizarre accident of birth that created this whole mess.

Happy New Year.

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