They’re calling it the worst movie ever made. They’re almost right. The Room has the directing and storytelling acumen of Ed Wood. The acting is so bad all of its characters could pass for zombies. The plot is straight out of The Young and the Restless. Its musclebound writer/producer/director/star, Tommy Wiseau, gives himself a gratuitous nude scene in which he shows off his toned ass. And it’s probably the cult film of the decade. Wiseau’s debut feature is an astonishingly inept meisterwerk that’s captured the imagination of irony addicts everywhere. Years after it came out, theaters still show it at midnight on weekends to packed houses who hoot, holler, and throw plastic spoons at the screen.
For seasoned B-movie enthusiasts, it’s a minor film—the great degenerates at Something Weird Video push out equally hallucinatory bizarros from the past on a regular basis—but it does stand out among other “worst movies of all time” for being one of the few that isn’t exploitation. Its nudity is tame and its dull sex scenes have the feel of a TV soap opera. It seems intended to be a serious story about a woman who cheats on her man with his best friend, but Wiseau has all the dramatic instinct of an 8 year old boy playing with little green army men and so it fails on every conceivable level.
Or does it?
According to Wiseau, EVERYTHING in the movie is intentional. The subplots that begin in one scene and then are NEVER mentioned again? The characters who pop up out of nowhere and then disappear? The corny dialogue? The scene where the guys all play football in tuxedos for no reason? All that stuff is part of the master plan, says Wiseau. This is a black comedy, he tells us. And when you think about it, doesn’t Mulholland Dr.—cited by many critics as the best film of the decade—have those SAME qualities mentioned above? (Okay, not the tuxedo football scene.)
So, hey, maybe Wiseau is telling the truth and he’s the new king of the avant garde. If so, he’s a genius.
Do I think he’s telling the truth? No. Neither does anyone else. Still, he’s having the last laugh as another midnight screening in another city sells out again.
The story of the film’s success is straight out of the 70s a la The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Pink Flamingos. The Room was first released in two Los Angeles theaters in the summer of 2003. Audiences laughed their asses off and the few reviews were dismal. Gradually, word-of-mouth spread and its monthly midnight screenings attracted repeat viewers who showed up dressed as the characters and shouted along with their favorite lines.