The first time I went to see The Room I had one of those experiences where I had absolutely no idea what to expect. All I was told was "Rest up, we are going to see a movie at midnight on Saturday and bring plastic spoons. Lots of plastic spoons." Say what? If you know what I am talking about, then you know the crazy experience that is going to see The Room. If you don't, well, perhaps you should.
This past weekend was the 9th Anniversary screening of the film in Los Angeles, and I went to see it for the second time. Not only was I treated to another viewing of the movie, but director and star Tommy Wiseau and actor Greg Sestero were there for a Q&A before (will get to that in a minute). This film has become a classic on the midnight movie circuit, and probably not for any of the reasons you would think. It has been considered by some as one of the worst movies ever made, (which I think I can agree with) yet I can also say that it is possibly one of the most enjoyable times I have ever had in a movie theater. Reflecting on the experience and the movie itself, it made me begin to wonder, how can it be so much fun to see a movie that sucks so much?
When you go see a film, there is a pretty set experience of what you expect to have happen. You know that there should be a movie that makes sense, serves to tell a story, and shows some character development through its story arc. You know that that there will be a picture that is in focus, continuity in the hairstyles and wardrobe, and visual effects that help you believe you are actually seeing locations that the characters are supposed to be in. The Room has none of these conventions. During a scene of lovemaking (yes, I said lovemaking) between Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) and Lisa (Juliette Danielle), her hair alternates from being up in a clip and down around her shoulders with each edit. In a scene on a rooftop, the background of the city of San Francisco looks like it is nothing more than a fabric back-drop. And, in more than one scene the focus is dropped for no reason at all. While there is a general story that can mostly be pieced together (a story of love, infidelity and betrayal) there are inconsistencies that make the film so hard to follow that it is sometimes impossible to understand what is happening. One such moment is when there is a character change in a friend about halfway through the film, with absolutely no explanation. And then there are the story lines involving drug use and cancer that are introduced in one scene each, and then literally never spoken about again. (What? Why, oh why are they still in the movie and weren't they just edited out?!)
It is these brilliant and confusing moments that have led to the amazingly fun experience that you have when you go see The Room. When someone does something ridiculous, (such as enter an apartment and then after a two minute conversation say "I have to go now") you don't just sit in your chair and question it in your mind….you yell at the top of your lungs, "you just got here!" When a bunch of guys stand in an alley (in tuxedos) throwing a football three feet away from each other you don't wonder, "why the hell are they doing that?"...you bring a football, wear your Sunday best and stand in the aisles and reenact the scene as if it were totally normal. As for what you do with the plastic spoons…I will leave that one as a surprise, but I will just say…bring lots of them, and perhaps a protective helmet.
I'm not sure the history or how the experience of going to see The Room evolved in to what it is now, but I would be fascinated to know. I suspect that one major part isn't just the film (because there are a lot of really bad films that are made) but also the enigma of the man behind it all named Tommy Wiseau. After seeing Tommy do a Q&A before the movie, I realized how this mess of a film came out of this guy's brain. I would say 80% of the time he is speaking, you have zero idea what he is talking about, and I have yet to figure out if that is because of his thick undefined accent or because he is really delusional and mildly insane (I'm leaning towards insane). He side-stepped any direct questions asked, and the questions that pointed out how awful the film is really seemed to bounce off of him and not compute. If they did register, he acted as if you were insulting an Academy Award winning film. About halfway through his appearance a friend leaned over and said to me "this is more of a train-wreck than the movie," and he was right. After doing some research, I found that the movie is listed as having a $6 million budget and I can't help but wonder where the hell did all of that money go? I mean, The Usual Suspects was made for that. There is really no concrete answer to be found, and, don't expect to get an answer from Tommy, he will just mumble something about change in actors and trail off with no real explanation.
So, why is it that people line up once a month and spend their money on movie tickets (and merchandise) for this thing that can loosely be considered a film? Well, I think it is has something to do with a mix of all of these things. Right now we are in a cinematic climate that seems to be increasingly more concerned with selling tickets than giving audiences an enjoyable experience. Going to see The Room will give audiences what they want…a truly bizarre, enchanting, and enjoyable experience. While you are watching the film, you don't really care that none of the "normal" aspects that make a film good exist because you are surrounded by a bunch of people that are finding joy in it, the same way they would from a technically perfect and brilliant film. And, in a world where we are increasingly separated from other people (as we spend more and more time with technology and on a computer) The Room creates an experience and a community. If you go more than once, you start to recognize people and look for the "camp leader" that got the people going and yelled out some of the best jokes the last time you were there. You stand in line with fans before the show, and give "first-timers" tips and pointers on to how have the most fun. And that is because more than anything, that is what it is…just fun.
There are screenings throughout the country and you can check out a schedule here. It is also available on DVD, but if it is playing anywhere near you, take the time to go to a theater. If you can't, get together some friends and make yourselves a Scotchka. Either way, get ready for one of the worst and most outrageous cinematic experiences of your life.
And just in case you want a preview, I present you with the trailer. Enjoy!