Last year, the PBS Idea Channel put out a video posing the question “can you make a movie that’s so bad it’s good on purpose?”, citing films like Sharknado and Ghost Shark by The Asylum as attempts at just that, while contrasting them against films that are terrible but don’t know they’re bad, such as Birdemic and The Room. And while Sharknado may have taken our social media feeds by storm (pun absolutely intended), I would vastly rather watch The Room than any of those types of films. In fact, I’d probably rather watch The Room than any number of po-faced 5-star serious drama flicks that light up the Oscars. That may make me a terrible person, but I just don’t want to watch Eddie Redmayne in a wheelchair acting through a voice synthesizer (as much skill as that takes), I want to see Tommy Wiseau in all of his lumpy-faced trollish glory yelling “EFFERYBADY BETRAID ME, AHM FEDDAP WID DIS WURLD“.
And he’s really the lynchpin that the whole experience is centred around. To understand The Room, you must understand Tommy Wiseau, because in a way the film is him. The opening credits scrolls lists him as the director, lead actor, writer, producer, butcher, baker and candlestick maker. The best thing about all that? He’s terrible at absolutely every single role. Atrociously, gloriously terrible. Which is why The Room succeeds, because it’s so goddamn earnest. Wiseau truly believed he was making a chronicle of his times, an all-American drama that would be spoken of amongst film buffs and casual fans alike for years to come. I suppose, in a way, he succeeded, because here we are today, talking about it.
You have to also be aware that there’s a companion piece to the film. The Disaster Artist is a book by Greg Sestero, who portrayed Mark in the film, and Tommy‘s only friend. It catalogues how batshit tutti-frutti insane the man known as Tommy Wiseau is. Read this goddamn book. You’ll come across anecdotes about how Wiseau wanted his car to be on the rooftop (already mental) and then inexplicably fly off into the distance. When asked for a reason for this, Wiseau shrugs and responds “I don’t know. Maybe Johnny is vampire.” It’s a fantastic book, and gives a huge insight into the character of Wiseau, simultaneously funny, tragic and seriously dark at times, so give it a look.
Okay, back to the film itself. What makes the film so bad? The script is really the root of it, especially when delivered into whatever mangled horrific sort-of-European monstrosity passing itself off as Tommy Wiseau‘s accent. From the infamous “I did naht hit hehr, it’s naht troo! It’s boolshet! I did naht hit hehr, I did NAAAAAHHHHT. Oh, hai Mahk.” to later in the same scene where Mark tells Johnny of a girl he used to know who was hospitalised after her boyfriend beat her, to which Johnny replies “Ha ha ha, what a story Mark!”. Other gems include “Leave your stupid comments in your pocket!”, “I have to go see Michelle in a little bit so I can make out with her”, “You betrayed me. You’re not good. You, you’re just a chicken. Chip-cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep” and of course the pinnacle of modern acting, Johnny’s anguished proclamation of a failing relationship: “YOU AH TEHRING ME APAAAAHT, LISA!”
Everything about it is horrible. Sub-plots are started and dropped within five minutes, such as Lisa’s mother casually announcing that she has breast cancer and then never mentioning it again, and a drug dealer who shows up for one scene. When asked about the drug dealer, Wiseau responded with “It is to show that drugs are a problem in society”. The titular room looks exactly like a display set in a furniture store, because Wiseau demanded it look like that. There are inexplicable scenes of the cast playing American football in tuxedos simply because Wiseau wanted to play football in a tuxedo.
To this day, Wiseau believes he made a masterpiece. He believes he is some oracle of wisdom (seriously, just take a glance at his Twitter for some more pearls of rambling insanity). He believes he made a film that will cement his place amongst the great luminaries of film. And considering how he manages to turn getting everything spectacularly wrong into an art form, and in the process creating the most entertaining train wreck ever committed to the big screen, how can I argue with him?
This column is called Screen Savers. The idea behind it is to watch films so bad that no sane human would recommend them, and tell readers exactly why to avoid them. I’m breaking the rules. Breaking the rules like Wiseau did, and transcending the form of the media I’m working in, just like him. Watch The Room. Read The Disaster Artist. Bask in the ambitious, earnest, hopeful, terrible, awful, batshit insanity of Tommy Wiseau.