PFF 2010 Review: The Room

I’ll start this review by simply saying that The Room is absolutely the kind of film that needs to be seen to be believed.  No amount of words or screen captures can accurately display the sheer insanity of this movie.

The midnight showing of The Room marks the first time the little known masterpiece has been screened in Philadelphia, after entrancing a small cult following playing screens in L.A. and New York since the film was released in 2003.  In full disclosure, I have seen The Room several times.  Actually more than several times.  Tommy Wiseau’s masterpiece of excruciating oddity is the film I show to anyone to truly understand my taste in films.  Filmmaking is a grueling, time consuming process from an assembled crew of often hundreds of individuals.  What is so fascinating about the bad ones is that film being a collaborative art means the failure of not just one person, but an entire group of people working together.  I enjoy bad films the way I enjoy outsider art because somehow they’ve become an even purer form of expression somehow laying plain the absurdity of human existence.  The Room is like an inadvertent The Holy Mountain.  I’ve wracked my brain trying to decipher the possible meaning of it all.

In Micheal Paul Stephenson’s fascinating documentary Best Worst Movie about competing “worst movie of all time” Troll 2, one fan made a statement that likened that film to the kind of thing made my aliens if they’d studied our transmissions and output from space and decided to hop down to earth and give it a try for themselves.  Well dear fanboy, behold The Room.

In the film, Johnny (writer/director/producer Tommy Wiseau) is a well intentioned banker (or possibly architect, I can’t figure it out) who is engaged to marry long time live in girlfriend Lisa (Juliette Danielle).  After years of monogamy and ridiculously gratuitous sex, out of nowhere Lisa leapfrogs into an ego-maniacal slut who only wants to dump Johnny and suddenly start banging his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero).  Why?  Who knows.  Lisa is bored I guess.  She apparently has a job, but spends most of her time on the couch.

This is just the setup.  The movie devolves from there into one of the most mind wrenching banal pieces of entertainment you’ve ever seen, and somehow the entire film from first frame to last is absolutely riveting.  It’s like a slow motion car crash.  There simply is not one right move that has been made by Wiseau and Co.  Each and every performance in the film is ridiculously out of place.  There is a startling amount of sex on screen, primarily concerning Lisa and her men, each accompanied by some of the worst R&B music to grace a demo tape.  Whole scenes and characters come and go, major plot points are revealed and none have any effect on the proceedings or the outcome.  The ineptitude on display is just startling.

What’s particularly fascinating for film aficionados is that the the movie was made on a budget of 6 million dollars and simultaneously shot in both the 35mm and HD formats.  Wiseau, who looks like a roadie for a Ukrainian hair band, reportedly fired his entire crew twice and production stretched over 8 months.  All for a film that might have been better produced by a handful of students in an apartment somewhere.  For that budget, there are no special effects to speak of (outside of some unnecessary and terrible green screen) and no computer generated effects.  It’s a hard sell to make people understand just why The Room is so especially bad, because it has none of the hallmarks of terrible movies.  No monster suits and no robots.  Just a plot that belongs to a movie that would fill the midnight slot on Skinemax.  Stills from this movie make it look downright harmless.

All the same, The Room is the holy grail of bad films and proof positive that in this day and age anyone with a camera and a cast can make a movie… just not necessarily a good one.  Our midnight audience was lapping it up.  Watch out Rocky Horror Picture Show, you’ve got some competition for the adulation of fans craving a good midnight screening.

10 “You’re tearing me apart!”s out of 10

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