Johnny stirred. He not only stirred his medium hot chocolate, like the ones made by Susan at the Double Rainbow café, but he also stirred from his Room. The Room was what Johnny called the private place in his head where he went to escape from the world; he could go there, and he would often have a good time, occasionally a bad time, but it was nonetheless a safe place. It wasn’t a room, it was THE Room.
He was in fact in the middle of a business meeting at the bank he worked at in San Francisco. He had been musing to himself how ironic it was that, seven years ago, this very bank wouldn’t cash his $2,000 cheque on account of it being from an out-of-state bank. Now, they were discussing his very ideas that they had recently put into practice and which were continuing to save them bundles. “That’s life!” he thought happily to himself.
Denny was snorting the lines of coke that Chris R had given him. Since the untimely death of his parents when he was 18, he had been consoling himself by the use of hard drugs, which he paid for with the money he swindled from his neighbours Johnny and Lisa, claiming it was for his tuition. Johnny had been inexplicably kind to Denny since picking him up from an orphanage, with the intent to adopt him. Denny didn’t care as he was getting a free apartment, free money and the chance to get close to the sensual Lisa, whose powerful lustre never seemed to diminish, despite those rather manly hands. Oh, how he wanted to kiss her and tell her that he loved her; she just looked so beautiful in a red dress. To make sure he didn’t appear to pose a threat, he had invented an imaginary girlfriend for himself, Elizabeth, to fool Johnny, but he wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep up appearances. After finishing the lines, he experienced the regular rush, the feeling of supremacy, the removal of the boundaries. “Maybe this time,” he thought, “Johnny and Lisa will have a threesome with me!”
Claudette opened the letter, addressed to her from the hospital on Guerrero Street. “We are sorry to inform you…” Breast cancer. Brilliant. This was just what she needed while her brother Harold hassled her for a share of her house. Fifteen years ago, they’d agreed that the house had belonged to her, but now the value was going up and he was seeing dollar signs. At the same time her ex-husband Edward, a well-paid actor, had been discussing to the media about how she’d simply married him to take his money, and had never loved him at all. While he’d been devastated about the divorce, she’d simply written him off as a hateful man. On top of this, her daughter’s future husband, Johnny, had refused to help her friend, Shirley Hamilton, with the down payments towards her new house, saying it was an “awkward situation”. She’d always seen him as a son-in-law and was angered that he wouldn’t help what she saw as ‘family’. Her relationship with her sole daughter Lisa had been growing colder too, although she couldn’t put her finger on why. “Perhaps I ought to reveal that I never wanted to marry her father,” she wondered “before it’s all too late.” She hadn’t been happy since she’d married her first husband, and it didn’t look like things were going to get better.
Peter moped around his apartment. He was a telemarketer, but was often mistaken for a psychologist, due to his impersonal demeanour, his ability to give bland, vague advice and his round spectacles. “I really ought to change these damn glasses,” he thought to himself. Despite telling people earnestly that he was just their friend, his ‘clients’ would never take the hint. His friends Mark and Johnny were completely under this illusion, but he was beginning to suspect that they were just teasing him. He wasn’t going to stand for it much longer, though. He decided that, if they made fun of him one more time, he’d leave San Francisco for good. At that moment, Johnny called him.
“Oh, hi, Peter!”
“Oh, hey, Johnny what’s up?” Peter replied.
“I need you to buy a new tux by Friday.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Seriously Johnny, what’s going on? These are tuxes we’re talking about?”
“You must be kidding, aren’t you? I’ll see you later. Bye!”
Johnny was actually riding the San Francisco cable car while he made the call; his white Mercedes was at the cleaners. He was feeling ecstatic and had decided to buy Lisa, his future wife, a little something on the way home. He treated her like a princess. He considered buying her a dozen red roses from Anniversary Flowers & Gifts, where he was their favourite customer – they used the petals for romantic, passionate, cheesy sex – but he realised they still had one more rose to go from the last dozen. Like a television falling out of a window it hit him: why not a new dress? He arrived at the entrance to a clothes store, and prepared for battle. In one quick flash, he opened the door, found a red dress that looked about the right size, walked up to the counter, asked the price, forked out the first note he found in his wallet, requested that they kept the change, greeted the store’s mascot chinchilla, and abruptly left. The girl behind the counter was still flabbergasted that he had paid for a $60 dress with a $100 bill. Johnny very much disliked being inside shops; he detested every minute of it, considering the act of browsing to be an “awkward situation”.
Mark had also received a similar call from Johnny, his best friend. He stroked his thick, manly beard, pondering what the tuxedo might be for; while the tux would come in useful for Johnny and Lisa’s imminent wedding, Mark suspected that his best friend just wanted to try a new twist on the old ‘toss the American football’ game they had been playing so much recently. He had just allowed Lisa to come and clean his apartment; she was a woman after all, a woman who lived in the same building. He noticed her cornflower blue top and her jet black skirt with the dangerously high vent and at one point he could have sworn that he saw her wink at him. He thought of Betty, his girlfriend, and what she’d say if he knew there was an attractive woman in his apartment. It would inevitably end in another row, but then again, it always did. Why couldn’t she leave her stupid comments in her pocket? She wasn’t any good in bed; she was beautiful, but they had too many arguments. As far as he was concerned, she could drop off the earth; that was a promise. As Lisa turned to leave the apartment, she caught his eye and her hand brushed his. “What are you doing?” he asked, but she’d already left the room. He pondered whether women liked to cheat like guys do and came to the conclusion that women were either too smart, flat-out stupid or just evil.
Lisa felt embarrassed with herself; Mark hadn’t liked that. For weeks she had been trying to find ways of flirting with men, but to no avail. As nice as he was, Johnny was simply too boring for her; he planned to buy her a house for goodness’ sakes, how boring is that? She’d been together with him for over five years now; seven, to be precise. She remembered the day she met him: he was but a lowly busboy who greeted her whilst she sat and had her coffee at a local hotel. “Oh, hi, stranger,” he had inquired, “You have nice legs!” Charmed by his forwardness, she joked that he had nice pecs and agreed to go on a date with him, but was dismayed when she found she had to pay for dinner, Johnny complaining about some cheque that had bounced. Nevertheless, they had continued seeing each other, but life had fallen into a turgid cycle. “If he uses rose petals during sex one more time, I’m going to ditch this creep!” she muttered to herself.
As she entered her apartment, her friends Mike and Michelle made their way out, apologetically. Chuckling to herself and considering the scent of chocolate and semen in the air, Lisa ignored once again the chore of replacing the default photos of cutlery that were in the frames on the side table. She noticed a letter of rejection on the floor from the IT company she’d applied for. “Due to your evident lack of experience…” Johnny was right; the computer business was too competitive. She moved to the kitchen to pour herself a large scotchka – scotch and vodka – before sitting back down in the living room.
As Johnny walked the remaining distance to his house, with the red dress in a leopard-skin-printed box in his left hand, he once again entered his Room. He thought of how wonderful his life was: he had a beautiful future wife, who he was to marry in just over a month – he made a mental note to look up the word for ‘future wife’; he had a bounteous job, and was sure he would get that promotion soon; he had a wonderful set of friends who would never betray him; and his imminent birthday was the cherry on top. How could anything go wrong? He opened the door to his apartment. “Hi, babe.”
Thus begins The Room, probably my favourite film of all time. It’s a film beyond words, yielding the highest praise whilst deserving the most vehement criticism. It’s a film so indisputably poor in its concept and execution that it becomes paradoxically more entertaining than it could have ever been otherwise. It’s an impeccable disasterpiece, with each minute as memorable and hilarious as the last, and it’s all from the genius/incompetence of one man: Tommy Wiseau.
Wiseau is the film’s writer, director, producer, executive producer and lead actor, so almost every beautiful, flawed facet can be accredited to him. He paints an immersive parallel San Francisco, where the title of a movie can be entirely independent of its contents; where a daughter, upon hearing her mother has breast cancer, can simply brush it off, claiming “They’re curing lots of people every day.”; where, before a scene ends, at least half of the characters must leave the scene first; where it takes only a couple of minutes to bring a hardened criminal to the police station and walk back; where people throw American footballs from three feet apart, or in tuxedos; and where a man brutally shoving another person into a bin on account of him saying the word ‘underwear’ can possibly be seen as an accident.
The film follows Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) and Lisa (Juliette Danielle), the latter cold-heartedly cheating on her partner with his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero), and the former unable to process why his future wife has grown so cold to him. But this isn’t your average Hollywood linear story telling. Wiseau adds texture, cinematic gristle, by adding a load of random subplots that go nowhere, including themes of cancer, drugs and underwear. The film is captivating in its pointlessness. The audience cranes to hear every individual detail they can about, for example, the enigmatic Denny (Philip Haldiman), and are left to solve the myriad of unanswered questions that the film dishes out so generously. Additionally, upon each watch, new facets become apparent to the viewer, with subtle themes running throughout the piece becoming more visible and enjoyable. Perhaps there is real genius hidden within, although I doubt it.
But it’s not just the film itself that causes so much mirth, but nearly everything to do with it as well. In an interview, Tommy Wiseau admitted that The Room was the result of almost 20 years of work. How ironic that, in the film, his character says to Denny “Don’t plan too much. It may not come out right.” Wiseau has also admitted to dishing out $6 million to fund this amazing shambles, with a sizeable proportion of the money going into a giant billboard of the man’s striking countenance. Arrested Development actor David Cross was intrigued by this. “Will Arnett and I would always see the billboard and be like, ‘What the fuck is that thing?'” Furthermore, Wiseau chose to shoot the film in its entirety using a regular 35mm camera and an expensive digital HD camera side by side, as he apparently had no idea which would give the best results. Worryingly, this could potentially lead to the release of the film in 3D.
The DVD package itself is just as entertaining as the film. As if that magical number needed to be seen any more, the film is split into a staggering 42 scenes on the DVD. Some of these contain hilarious typos, such as #17 Chis-R and #21 “You are tearing me a part, Lisa!”, while some seem thematically identical, e.g. #4 Johnny and Lisa’s Love Scene and #13 Love Scene Between Johnny and Lisa. The blurb itself could have been written by a five year old, with the choice sentence being “You could be with your loving woman and all of a sudden BOOM! She’s in bed with your best friend or a family member.” Fact: Lisa doesn’t sleep with any of Johnny’s family members in this film.
The fascinating six-minute interview with Tommy Wiseau reveals less about the film than it does about the psyche of the man himself. Under the assumption that he conducted this interview himself, it seems very strange that he’d choose to answer the negative questions such as “What do you think about the negative reviews and opinions about The Room?” and “Why are the characters playing football in tuxedos, and why just three feet apart?” Surely on this tack we could ask him “Why does nobody care about Claudette’s breast cancer?” or “Does Denny ever get repercussions from his drug abuse?”, but Wiseau doesn’t stray here. In fact, this is hardly the weirdest thing about the interview; even more strangely, he strongly edits the answers he gives, with noticeable cuts in between his sentences. Towards the end of the interview, he even starts dubbing himself. What is going on? Occasionally, his answers even seem to contradict themselves; when asked if The Room is for everyone, he says “Definitely not,” and then continues to recommend the film to all Americans, saying they should see it twice.
However, my favourite aspect of this movie is how it has brought me closer to the friends I have seen it with. The reason they put cringeworthy jokes in Christmas crackers is to bring the family closer together; if one person’s joke was better than another’s then there’d be an undesirable feeling of competition in the air. Also, even the best jokes can leave people alienated; what is funny to someone may not be funny to another. Similarly, anybody can dispute the quality of what is supposedly a ‘good film’, but nobody can deny the many flaws of The Room, and everybody arrives at the same conclusion. In this way, there’s always a sense of unity in the room when watching The Room. It’s this unity I have enjoyed twelve times over, either with close friends or in a hall full of so-called ‘Roomies’. These experiences amount to the best time I’ve ever had watching a movie, which is why it is probably my favourite film of all time.