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What better way to spend a Friday night in the city than attending a not-so-rare screening of Tommy Wiseau's awesome piece-of-shit movie, The Room. For those of you who have somehow managed to avoid mention of this movie or hearing its many quotable quotes thrown around ubiquitously ("You're tearing me apart, Lisa!", "I did not hit her, I did nahhht") The Room is a 2003 film that was written, produced and directed by Tommy Wiseau, who also stars in the film.
I suppose the main factor contributing to whether or not you can get wrapped up in The Room mania has to do with what you're willing to forgive in a movie. It is an awful, awful film, replete with painful performances, poorly scripted dialogue, continuity errors, awkward sex scenes... the list goes on and on. Yet in spite of being panned by critics, The Room has been embraced by a cult audience for being simply hilarious. Sure, it's terrible, but I rather enjoy spending a full 2 hours laughing out loud at its absurdity with like-minded fans. Screenings of the film have adopted an element of audience participation, whereby viewers might bring some "props" from the movie to interact with at the appropriate scenes. After the screening last night, staff of the Royal theatre in Toronto likely spent hours sweeping up all the plastic spoons and rose petals.
In interviews, Wiseau maintains the intended the film to be humorous and markets it as a "black comedy", but anyone who has seen it knows instantly that the movie was made to be a serious dark drama about a man tormented by a love triangle with his fiancée and his best friend. Wiseau plays Johnny, an absolutely perfect human being who works hard at his career, is there for his friends and is happy to provide for his girlfriend Lisa and the strange neighborhood orphan he has semi-adopted. Everyone adores Johnny except for his selfish sociopath of a girlfriend who falsely accuses him of hitting her, betrays him by having an affair with his best friend Mark, and lies about a pregnancy. All other snippets of storyline come and go without much by way of explanation or justification. A woman casually drops that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and a child is held at gunpoint for having gotten involved in drug trafficking, but these events are but mere blips in the story of Lisa being horrible to Johnny.
What is most entertaining to me is now everything about the movie seeks to flatter Wiseau in virtually every way: in fact, Johnny’s greatness it is so often emphasized that I can’t help but suspect that the movie is essentially Wiseau’s self-indulgent fantasy, an autobiographical film about a man who does everything right but is taken down by his love for a horrible she-bitch. The movie screams of Wiseau’s real-life rejection. Even the crudely amateur sex scenes focus their gaze on Wiseau, showing more of his thrusting buttocks than his partner. The thing is, it’s hard to relate to Johnny at all because Wiseau is creepy beyond belief and his mysterious accent and strangely melted face are rather distracting whenever he is onscreen. Instead of loving him and hating Mark and Lisa, we loathe them all and can relish in laughing at their suffering.
I took 3 friends with me to the screening last night, one of whom had seen the movie before (and loves it) but the other two were virgins. At one point I actually worried that all the audience shouting would drown out the horrible/amazing dialogue but they both walked out of the theatre with pained smiles on their faces, the official expression of The Room watcher. If you haven’t seen it yet, look for a theatre screening. You won’t regret it.