Often hailed as one of the worst movies ever made, The Room seems like an exercise to show how NOT to make an independent film failing to meet the most basic standards of what makes a movie good. Despite plentiful shortcomings, The Room is far from unwatchable. It’s actually enjoyable from an ironic point of view and has rightfully earned its cult status.
But what makes it so bad that it’s good?
To answer that we have to look at everything this film gets wrong and what better place to start than the beginning. It should be warned that this review will contain spoilers for the movie which I find unavoidable when talking about how wonderfully bad this movie really is.
The Room is often described as a romantic drama. It centers around a banker named Johnny (played by Tommy Wiseau, who is also the film’s director, producer, and writer) who he becomes embroiled in a melodramatic love triangle with his fiancé Lisa (played by Juliette Danielle) and his best friend Mark (played by Greg Sestero). This proceeds to tear his perfect life apart and Johnny finds himself asking the question “can you really trust anyone?” Overall, the plot is the same kind of paint by numbers often seen in most romantic dramas and usually done vastly better. Mostly, it just serves to keep the movie rolling forward and in that regard does its job.
What doesn’t work is the multitude of side plots that vanish with zero resolution. The two that come to mind involve a young man Johnny and Lisa take care of, Denny, as he deals with the ramifications of entering the seedy underworld of drug dealers and the subplot of Lisa finding out that her mother is battling with breast cancer. Where do those subplots go exactly? No one knows because they are dropped into the ether just as quickly as they are introduced. Why is Denny buying drugs? Is Lisa’s mother going to die from her cancer? We don’t know and I honestly don’t think even Tommy Wiseau knows the outcome of those plot threads. They’re left so open that they could be mistaken for sequel bait but are ultimately forgotten about by the film’s closure.
One other major problem with the film is the overall flow of the plot and that’s due in large part to how the film is edited. There are scenes that go on for way too long or are way too short and rushed. Scenes that seem completely out of place or others that seem to be outright missing. Again, several examples come to mind such as a scene wherein Johnny and Mark play catch with a football because……sports? That scene comes virtually out of nowhere. It’s so pointless that it seems like someone just left the camera running in between shots and accidentally added it to the final cut.
The film’s writing and acting are actually two of the better points of the movie due in large part to how bad it really is. Lines that don’t make sense, line delivery that’s too rushed, hokey acting and inflections that are delivered completely wrong are just some of the highlights Wiseau’s lack of writing experience shows in almost every scene.
According to the book, The Disaster Artist, written by Mark himself (Greg Sestero), most of the lines written by Wiseau had to be rewritten on the spot due to how little sense they made in their original context. In addition to being poorly written, the movie is often poorly acted with the biggest offender being Tommy Wiseau himself (no surprise there). Everything from his pacing to his delivery is just off completely and it’s a spectacle to see in action. Truly the holy grail of bad acting. The pinnacle of Wiseau’s acting prowess has got to be the infamous rooftop scene, also known as the “I did not hit her” scene, the only scene you need to see to truly understand just how bad Wiseau is. Everything from his indiscernible accent to his very poor delivery makes this scene a perfect storm of awfulness.
The only bit of decent acting I could really remember is a small part midway through the movie in which Denny encounters a drug dealer on the roof of the building everyone seems to live in. The drug dealer, who according to The Disaster Artist is named Chris-R, gives the only believable performance of the movie as he shakes down Denny for some money. Unfortunately, this is the only time he’s in the film and it’s for only about one minute or so. We definitely need a follow-up film following Chris-R’s misadventures.
The other actors give passable performances. Greg Sestero, despite this being his first true “acting” role, does decent enough with what he’s given. As does Juliette Danielle, although she does seem bored or fed up in some scenes. Philip Haldiman, who plays Denny, gives an okay performance but it’s completely undermined with how creepy his character really is. He mentions that he likes to watch Johnny and Lisa have sex, why that was written into the movie is beyond me as it’s never expanded upon or dealt with. It doesn’t help that the character of Denny is portrayed as a possible high school student, in his late teens. Philip Haldiman is clearly not a teen, was in fact twenty-six at the time of filming, and just gives Denny a very creepy Orphan like vibe to his character (If you’ve never seen Orphan, do yourself a favor and see it, it’s fantastic.). The other actors are forgettable and often times you barely remember their character names if they’re given at all.
If you’re gathering that The Room is the pinnacle of bad movies…you’d be correct but I highly recommend that EVERYONE see it at least once. It’s rare to come across a bad movie that’s genuinely so bad it’s good. This is certainly one of them. Its numerous, glaring flaws make it very enjoyable and perfect for viewing parties. Gather some friends, grab some snacks and drinks and prepare for a Mystery Science Theater-style night. Show it to an aspiring filmmaker so they don’t fall into the same pitfalls.
Earlier, I said this movie has claimed cult status so clearly, people love the movie. It has rightfully earned its status and its right to stand toe to toe with such great bad movies as The Rocky Horror Picture Show. People, do yourself a favor and watch this movie at least once in your lives. You will not regret it.
If you get the chance, also read the book, The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero. It gives a full recount of how the movie came to be and stories behind the filming. From what I’ve read so far, it’s just as unbelievable as The Room itself.