A Unique Cinematic Experience: The Room (2003)

In advance of the new film, The Disaster Artist directed by James Franco, which came out yesterday, I thought I would review a now classic cult film, The Room, directed, produced and starring leading man Tommy Wiseau beside his “best friend” Greg Sestero who plays the supporting role of Mark.

I had for years heard about the infamous film from friends. I had even watched a couple of clips and read a couple of reviews about it but nothing would compare to watching the actual movie in its entirety.

After saying I would go see it several times, I finally did two Sundays ago, when two friends extended the invitation. We did not just watch it online however, we saw it at the Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa, which would provide an even better experience than simply watching it at home on a computer or on TV.

The Mayfair, located on Bank Street, was one of the first theaters to consecutively play The Room every month, starting in 2007. This was the 99th consecutive monthly screening, with Greg Sestero in the audience who gave a very lively Q&A after the film was done.

I thought I knew what to expect going in as I had seen many clips, but it was worse than I thought. For one, half of The Room is basically extremely awkward sex scenes that make you question if anyone who worked on this film had actually ever been exposed to any sort of sexual education. But this is just one of the reasons it is so bad that it’s funny and entertaining.

The film begins with the aforementioned Tommy Wiseau in his leading role of Johnny, the “steretypical” average all-American man with an unidentified foreign accent which is most definitely probably not American (but nobody knows). The movie’s awkwardness is in full force in the first scene when an orphan boy that Johnny takes under his wing, Denny, attempts to join him and his finacé (or future wife as she is often referred too) in bed together… Sets the stage well.

The movie basically centers around the relationship of Johnny and Lisa, who are happily engaged or so we think! We soon realize that (out of nowhere) Lisa doesn’t love Johnny anymore and begins to go after his best friend Mark.

Johnny’s life starts to spiral out of control as he begins to realize what is happening. Pretty basic plot, hard to really mess up. The Room, however does just that masterfully with the “interesting” cast of secondary characters who have nothing to do with the actual story.

There are some scenes that leave you scratching your head and saying: “Who was that? What did that have to do with the movie?” For example, Peter, Mark and Johnny’s psychiatrist friend, helps Johnny by listening to him about his relationship problems. But after one scene where Johnny, Denny and Mark are playing footballs in tuxedos (because that is the only way to play football), Peter trips and falls down and then we never see him again.

Instead, his character is replaced with some random guy who is inserted into the plot with no explanation. Apparently, the reason behind this was that the actor playing Peter couldn’t stay on for the production long enough to finish his scenes. Also, Wiseau notably unnecessarily re-shot scenes over and over again, according Sestero’s book which Franco based The Disaster Artist on.

Other than this, the film is filled with memorable scenes, like Lisa’s mother very casually and briefly bringing up the fact that she is dying of cancer, the infamous flower shop scene where the dialogue just does not make sense, tuxedo football, the list goes on.

Seeing it in the theatre even further enhances the experience. Fans yell out things to the screen or throw spoons at the screen whenever the framed picture of a spoon in Johnny and Lisa’s apartment comes up.

When the movie was taken out of theaters in the mid 2000s it had grossed only $1800 US. Now it is a worldwide phenomenon.

There is a sort of inspiring quality to this that The Disaster Artist captures quite well. Some people dream about making films, but Tommy actually did it and that, in some way, shape or form, is inspiring even if the film was less than desirable.

You can catch the Disaster Artist in theaters starting Friday and watch The Room online, at the Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa monthly and at other random screenings (including some double features with The Disaster Artist)



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