The Room: Looking Back at The Citizen Kane of Bad Movies

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The Room came out almost fifteen years ago.  It was a total bomb from the get go.  No studio wanted to touch it.  The crew hardly even owned up to working on it.  Somehow at the end of it’s two week run in a theater, the cult the film would eventually know began to take shape.  It skyrocketed into the stratosphere in terms of popularity and becoming a cultural icon.  One of the actors, Greg Sestero, wrote a book detailing the production of the worst movie ever made and his meeting of one of the most peculiar human beings to ever exist, Tommy Wiseau.  A feature film of the book (The Disaster Artist) featuring the Franco brothers releases soon, so what better time to have a look back at the infamously horrid film.

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Jonny has a promising life with his future wife, Lisa, and a nice promotion lined up at the bank.  His life begins to spiral tragically out of control when Lisa betrays him by sleeping with his best friend, Mark.


The Room is actually as bad as the stories make it out to be.  I first saw it back in high school, when we would sit around watching the worst movies we could find for sport. Some of these movies acknowledged just how awful they were, some took themselves too serious to be good in any sense of the word.  This movie stood out from the rest for some reason.  It wasn’t just that the writing was bad; the overall production was just about five leagues below amateur.  The characters have little connection to each other, and have even less chemistry in every scene.  Most of the shots in the movie are out of focus.  There is a blatant disregard for continuity in every scene.  The audio syncs maybe 60% of the time.  It is by no stretch of the imagination a good movie. However, there’s just something lovable and charming about the movie.  Something that has launched this film into it’s cult status.

Almost two decades after it’s premiere, The Room is still one of the biggest cult films in movie history.  Theaters still screen this movie because seeing this movie with the right audience is an event unto itself.  If you haven’t been to a screening of The Room or are unaware what happens there, you need to the first available chance you get. Audience members will interact with the movie by responding to dialogue or mocking certain characters actions.  There is a popular ritual of throwing plastic spoons at the screen whenever the odd stock frames with pictures of spoons appear on screen.  I still can not watch a panning landscape shot without hearing “GO! GO! GO! GO! GO!” anymore.  The film has become a staple in cinephile culture, and seeing it in a theater is almost a right of passage at this point.

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I had not seen the film since high school, and a couple weeks ago was my first time seeing it in a theater.  I decided I needed to read the book The Disaster Artist before the movie released.  The book added so much more to this movie, it ALMOST makes it kind of sort of a little bit just okay not quite good.  This is mostly due to the amount of light shed on the man behind the movie Tommy Wiseau who not only starred in the movie but wrote, directed, produced, and served as one of the films executive producers.

Tommy is one of the most fascinating people I have ever read about.  This is a guy who just seemingly appeared in Hollywood with an endless fortune ready to pour into his vanity film project.  This was not just an indie passion project.  This was something financed put his own production company, that also bought (I repeat bought, not rented) all of the camera and lighting equipment for the movie.  He poured everything of himself into this movie, and there is something relatable to that.  For anyone who has seen the movie, they are aware of how peculiar his acting style.  He floats through a scene with a somewhat alien presence to him.  His dialogue makes little to no sense, if his delivery has not completely butchered it.  There is no way he should be in a movie, let alone the leading man in it, yet here he is front and center.

Even though Tommy is one of the strangest people to evert exist, there is something relatable to just how human he really is.  This is a guy who came to America from some unknown Eastern country.  He came to land of opportunity to make something of himself.  He eventually found his way to California with the dream of becoming a real Hollywood actor.  He has no skills as an actor, and despite many attempts to better himself he makes no discernibly progress.  There is no reason anyone should believe this man is destined for greatness, but he believes that this is what is meant for him.  Even though he set out to produce the greatest drama ever, his film is ultimately a farce of it’s own genre.  While he did not . make the movie he intended to make, it is successful in a completely different way.  Everyone loves this movie for how enjoyably awful it is, but since everyone loves his movie Tommy believes he has succeded in his goal.

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The Disaster Artist has been one of my most anticipated movies of the year, and this was before I read the book.  The talent involved in a movie about the making of the worst movie ever already had promise to be hilarious.  The book ended up being a very compelling story.  The hijinks of the production aside, the story has a lot of heart.  Anyone who has ever dreamed of success and fame will be captivated by this story.  James Franco directed the film and portrays Tommy Wiseau, and I honestly think that may be the most perfect pairing of actor and role ever.  While Franco has found success as an actor, some of his indie passion projects has been met with less than favorable criticism.  Not only that, but his career as a painter has been the focal point of a certain amount of scrutiny.  He is an artist who has produced work for himself more often times than not, and that is the very essence of Tommy Wiseau.

The Room has become essential to film.  It’s horrible, but it’s a must see.  It’s a feat of production in just how bad it is across the board.  It is something that audiences just have to behold for themselves to see just how truly unique of a film it is.  It has achieved status as one of the most notorious films ever, despite everything about it proving otherwise.  The film, The Disaster Artist, hits theaters December 8th, or you can pick up a copy of the book anywhere where books are sold.

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"I'm a cinematographer based in Nashville, TN that specializes in narrative and commercial work. I'm an avid movie fan through and through, so long as there's good lighting"