Why you should care
Because this movie really sucks. And you really need to see it.
“Before we start, I want to tell you all that there are no refunds. I’m so sorry.” With that statement, theater manager Michael Blythe exits stage right, and the midnight screening of The Room, often referred to as the “worst film ever made,” begins. I’m about to participate in Rocky Horror–style high jinks in a so-bad-it’s-good experience.
I come prepared, packing two boxes of plastic spoons per my friends’ recommendation. Why plastic spoons? To throw at the screen, of course. And soon that moment in the film arrives: the living-room scene, in which there are one, two — maybe three? — framed photos of spoons. “SPOONS!” bellows the audience, delivering a rain of plastic cutlery, which I enthusiastically add to. The deal here, I learn, is that the director didn’t bother to replace the stock photos in his stage props. At first, I try to follow the storyline, ostensibly that of a man cuckolded by his best friend and fiancée, but it makes so little sense that I give up and go with the flow, shouting, “Water! Water!” at every unnecessary water shot (there are lots) and stomping my feet every time a character uses the staircase.
It’s the insane inconsistencies in the narrative that make the whole production so gloriously unwatchable.
Released in 2003, The Room stars Tommy Wiseau as Tommy, the hard-done-by lead. Now, Wiseau is striking to look at: a middle-aged man with long dark hair and an unnatural orange tan — a Gary Larson comic strip come to life. He also wrote, directed and produced the movie; there are other names in the credits, but most of them are Wiseau’s invention. Even excusing this blatant megalomania, it’s the insane inconsistencies in the narrative that make the whole production so gloriously unwatchable.
In one scene, Tommy’s future mother-in-law dramatically announces she has breast cancer … and never mentions it again. Then there’s the sex scene that’s repeated — like cut-and-paste repeated — because Wiseau liked how his body looked (for the record, I found the close-ups of his clenched buttocks both anatomically wrong and unappealing), and the set that looks like it cost $6 — not $6 million — to create.
“It’s a riot, people freak out,” says Blythe, who has been hosting screenings of The Room at San Francisco’s Clay Theater for the past five years. If you’re very lucky, Wiseau has been known to make occasional appearances. “We love Tommy,” says Blythe. “But he is a little crazy — he’s Tommy Wiseau after all.”
The Room also spawned a tell-all book, The Disaster Artist, co-written by Greg Sestero, who, perhaps fittingly, plays Wiseau’s backstabbing BFF. Sestero’s behind-the-scenes insights add another level of incredulity to the production, documenting Wiseau’s temper tantrums and his inability to remember lines, in addition to questioning the source of the mysterious auteur’s millions. James Franco (yes, for realz) was so taken by this tale that he created a mockumentary about the making of The Room — previewed at SXSW 2017 to rave reviews, it’s scheduled to hit theaters this summer.
For now, independent theaters will continue to hold sold-out midnight showings of The Room for legions of dumbstruck moviegoers who can’t quite compute how this atrociously stilted, plotless and disjointed story ever made it to screen. If you’re looking for terrible moviemaking, an inconsistent narrative structure and way too many saggy-buttock shots, give The Room a whirl. Be warned, though: I’m not saying you’ll enjoy it, but you’ll never look at a spoon the same way again.