Thursday, May 21, 2009

Views of The Room

Whether I'm keeping up with new movies in theaters, catching up on films I haven't seen, or rewatching favorites, I don't have the time or inclination for viewing movies that are supposedly so bad that they become good. I chose to make an exception for THE ROOM.

I was unaware of this cult film until reading A.V. Club writer Scott Tobias' New Cult Canon entry on it. (An Entertainment Weekly article about the film and the phenomenon is also essential reading.) THE ROOM sounded intriguingly awful, but I couldn't locate it on Netflix and just assumed it wasn't available on DVD. When I found out about Columbus Alive's private screening of it tonight, I knew I needed to go if possible. Thanks to Alive's Melissa Starker for getting me on the list to attend.

Although it plays as comedy, THE ROOM is a drama about sensitive banker Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) and his cheating, scheming fiancée Lisa (Juliette Danielle). (I'm not buying after the fact claims that THE ROOM is supposed to be as hilarious as it is.) Lisa seduces Johnny's best friend Mark (Greg Sestero), who is conflicted about the affair because he is Johnny's best friend and Lisa knows that he is Johnny's best friend.

THE ROOM is so incompetently made that the terrible acting and writing take a back seat to the comic artlessness. Viewing this on projected video made it hard to notice the camera's infamous focus problems, yet it isn't hyperbole to say that THE ROOM is shot and assembled as though writer, director, and star Wiseau doesn't know the first thing about film grammar.

Characters come and go without explanation. Plot developments are introduced and discarded, sometimes within the same scene. THE ROOM is essentially a long string of non sequiturs that binds the character's (and Wiseau's) heartbreak. Well, that and three--or was it four?--ridiculously long and determinedly unerotic sex scenes in the first thirty or so minutes.

It's remarkably difficult to make a movie this bad on purpose. Only something made out of tremendously misguided passion and arrogance could achieve the magical crapitude of THE ROOM. Wiseau seems deadly serious about his jaundiced take on women and relationships. Laughable as the movie is, his anguish pours out from this personal cinematic statement. Of course, it's such earnestness in incompetency that makes THE ROOM consistently funny.

That sincerity may also be why, for all of its technical and artistic shortcomings, THE ROOM is compulsively watchable. I couldn't wait to see what utter nonsense would come next. Most bad films are routinely bad; THE ROOM is uncommonly bad.

Although I was foiled in my Netflix search for THE ROOM, I've since learned that it can be purchased on DVD. (How else would a projected DVD have been shown this evening?) I wouldn't have wanted to have watched this for the first time at home by myself.

THE ROOM is something that's best seen with a lot of people. Witnessing an astonishingly inept movie with the small group gathered tonight in Surly Girl Saloon's party room made for the kind of fun, communal experience that moviegoing is supposed to be but often isn't. Here's one time when talking during the movie added to the ambience.

Perhaps an enterprising Columbus movie theater will give THE ROOM a midnight movie run. I've got to think this thing would play like crazy.