In 2003, a creation unlike any other was given to the world. Tommy Wiseau, who appeared in Hollywood with no warning and little explanation, delivered his opus, The Room, to unwitting audiences in a smattering of theaters. It was fucking terrible…And it became a huge hit.
The thing about Tommy Wiseau is that no one actually knows who he is. He simply showed up one day with a script and a massive fortune to blow on it. Wiseau and a small group of friends, armed with blind ambition, a lot of money and zero talent, set out to make their mark on the pantheon of American film. A few months and six million dollars later, The Room was borne unto us.
Wiseau, who wrote the script, cast himself as the lead role, Johnny, a nondescript banker with an unplaceable accent and a nice apartment in San Francisco. Juliette Danielle, who no one has been able to convince me is not not a porn actress, plays Johnny’s scheming girlfriend Lisa, a woman with motivations so simultaneously clear and obscure that her performance might actually be spot-on. She initiates an affair with Johnny’s best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero), and the script doesn’t let you forget that. Rounding out the cast is Philip Haldiman as the creepy, hypersexual neighbor/adopted son of Denny and Carolyn Minnott as Lisa’s mother Claudette, who definitely has breast cancer.
So, yeah, it’s a bit of a mess. The film folds in on itself and becomes a tangled amalgamation of half-baked plots, character motivations, and funhouse-mirror English. What pushes The Room past “bad” is how spectacularly the whole thing goes wrong. Most movies have a saving grace, but The Room is beyond redemption. Scenes that are supposed to play completely seriously are funnier than most late-career Judd Apatow movies. Lines that Wiseau wrote himself come out of his mouth as mangled verbal sculptures. The sex scenes will make you believe in hell (and hip vaginas). It’s so terrible that it goes from being unwatchable to being akin to cinematic crack. You can’t get enough.
The same online fervor that first propelled the movie to cult status is responsible for a new wave of infamy. Last month, The Disaster Artist, a movie about the making of The Room starring James Franco, Zoey Deutch, and Dave Franco, premiered at SXSW to rave reviews. The cultural reach of The Room is still expanding, and, dear reader, it’s time to get in on the action.
The Room is best enjoyed among friends, preferably with snacks and a lot of alcohol (we suggest scotchka). Don’t watch the trailer—just go in cold and you’ll thank me. It’s available on YouTube and will take up less than two hours of your time, so you don’t have much of an excuse to skip it. It’s also really easy to make watching the movie into a drinking game: drink every time there’s an establishing shot, whenever Johnny laughs, when Claudette reacts to something, and when the gang plays football. Take a gulp when Johnny’s bare ass peeks out from the covers and when a new character appears.
The Room is horrible, but it’s a humanizing thing. It’s fun to watch these people act so visibly, and you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of these people that wanted to be Hollywood stars so badly they just did it themselves. Tommy Wiseau might have set out to give the world another drama, but he gave us a completely new vision, even if it’s an objectively shitty one. In the end, that’s the kind of genius worth celebrating.