Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Room Of Our Own

You can't look anywhere in Los Angeles without seeing a billboard. And, this being Los Angeles, most of them are about movies. There's so many in fact that they begin to achieve a sort of visual white noise. You stop noticing they are there at all.

One stands above the rest because it is for a movie you've never heard of and because, more importantly, it looks like this:

When the billboard caught my eye on a recent trip to L.A. I chuckled and pointed it out to my L.A. producer and he gave me the details as best he knew it: this film was made by the guy whose disturbing, possibly inebriated image was staring at me from Highland Avenue, he wrote, directed and starred in it, and for years he's been hosting midnight screenings of the film which was reportedly so bad it was good.

The plot thickened after I heard the writer/producer/director/star Tommy Wiseau and some of his adoring-slash-mocking fans on NPR. Wiseau claimed he knew all along he was making a strange movie that made no sense. He claimed it was all intentional, that the bizarre elements the audience loved, the terrible green screen effects, the dinner theater acting, were all part of a master filmmaking plan. At that point I was certain of two facts: that Tommy Wiseau was full of shit and that I needed to see the movie as soon as humanly possible. On my latest trip to the Southern California I got my chance. And I am happy to report that The Room is one of the most delightfully bad movies I have ever seen.

Wisea plays Jimmy, who lives with his fiance Lisa (Juliette Danielle). Before we know anything more than that the two are already engaged in a sub-Red Shoe Diaries sex scene, in which Wiseau appears to be making love to Danielle's navel, and several shots with water in front of the lens, as if the camera is assuming the perspective of a toilet.

After that lifeless sex scene (which ends when Wiseau gets out of bed and walks out of the room, giving us all an unwanted and far too lengthy look at his naked rear) the film settles into a rhythm: sex scenes (including one that appears to be nothing more than outtakes and reused shots from the first sex scene!) followed by scenes where Lisa's gold digger of a mother (Carolyn Minnott) arrives and argues with her daughter about marrying Johnny. Lisa says she doesn't love Johnny (though most of the time, she acts like she does), Mommy says who cares about that! He'll provide for her, and Lord knows she can't take care of herself. Lisa has other things on the mind. She's cheating on Johnny with — gasp! — his best friend! After an eternity, Johnny discovers their deception and begins recording their conversations with...his answering machine?

Wiseau is a triple threat of badness: bad actor, bad writer, and bad director (very bad according to his interview in The Room DVD special features; he claims she shot the film in both 35mm and HD because he was "misinformed" — whoopsie!). Though Variety claims Wiseau is from New Orleans he speaks English like a foreigner (think Borat by way of Steven Martin's Wild and Crazy Guy), and his screenplay is full of misinterpreted English slang; in one scene, when he returns home to find Lisa has already ordered their dinner of pizza (half canadian bacon, yum!) he replies, "Lisa, you think about everything!" That's think of everything Tommy.

Subplots and characters are added and then discarded with reckless abandon. The best is an altercation between a drug dealer and Tommy's college student neighbor — it involves guns and debts and screaming and fighting, and once it's over it's never mentioned again. Some elements completely defy explanation all together: in one scene all the male characters put on tuxes, presumably for Tommy's marriage to Lisa. But the marriage never happens; the men go into an alley and play football in their tuxedos instead. And the title? Wiseau claims it does not refer to the cheaply adorned set that serves as the location for most of the film's inaction. "It's not a room, it's the room!" he confusing adds. "Sometimes you feel happy, sometimes you feel sad, but it's a place you go" At that point I was laughing too hard to hear the rest.

You've heard of so-bad-it's-good. The Room is so-terrible-it's-great. It is a cinematic treasure that needs to be seen by everyone who has at least one working eyeball. What better way to celebrate American independence this July 4th than by watching a truly independent filmmaker screw up his movie in every imaginable way?

(The Room billboard image is stolen from this website, where you can get more Room information, should you want it)


Blogger Ed said...

This is amazing!

2:35 PM  
Blogger Matt Singer said...

It's the most amazing thing in the history of amazingness.

It's an exclusively L.A. phenomenon. I'm thinking we need to start up an NYC screening of it.

9:25 PM  

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