Journalist Tom Bissell wasn’t exaggerating in his recent piece for Harper’s Magazine when he called the 2003 movie THE ROOM, “the movie that an alien who has never seen a movie might make after having had movies thoroughly explained to him.” This and other comments (“THE ROOM is as bereft of familiar taxonomy as a bat from Mars”) might sound harsh until you actually see the thing, which enjoys monthly midnight screenings at Village East Cinema in NY. Unlike other movies that fall into the ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ category, THE ROOM is an earnest attempt at high drama, and as such the consistent stream of laughter it elicits from audiences can seem, well, kinda harsh.
But THE ROOM’s director, writer, producer and star Tommy Wiseau has handled the criticism remarkably well, even adjusting his marketing stance from serious Oscar-worthy drama (he submitted it to Academy) to indie black comedy. In interviews he refuses to illuminate many of the movie’s more mysterious elements, like why a character will inexplicably produce a football and toss it around, or why, in one scene, all the men are wearing tuxedos, or why there are framed pictures of spoons in the apartment, or why two of the movie’s terrifically cringe-inducing sex scenes are filmed through a waterfall – falling, presumably, in the middle of the bedroom.
Wiseau doesn’t answer these questions because he can’t. It’s like asking him why he shot it on two cameras simultaneously- one film and one HD. To say he didn’t know any better is as mean as it is true, and that’s what Bissell argues in Harper’s. “Whatever he tried to do, he clearly failed, and whatever he succeeded in doing has no obvious name. But THE ROOM’s last remaining ritual of audience participation might be for everyone to imagine seeing one’s most deeply personal attempt at self-expression razed by a hurricane of laughter. Most of us, I think, would fare more poorly than Wiseau.”
Catch THE ROOM the last Friday of the month at Village East Cinema.