Underrated classics: A ‘Room’ full of strange joy

“The Room” was filmed with a budget of $6 million. Director Tommy Wiseau insists that he funded the film entirely by importing and selling Korean leather jackets. (Courtesy of Wiseau Films)

Amanda McCarthy
Connector Contributor

These days, it seems no discussion of “so bad it’s good” films is complete without mentioning 2003’s “The Room.” It seems every film buff has seen the memes and heard the jokes. Those jokes can only begin to describe what a beautiful mess this film is.

At first glance, the premise of this film is not unique. It is a drama about a successful San Francisco banker who misses the warning signs that his fiancée is cheating on him. So just what goes so wrong, and why is this film beloved among those who love watching movies that inspire snide remarks?

Starting with the script, it is full of sloppily written lines that have become classics in their own right. There is no bad-movie moment more iconic than when Johnny throws his arms up and shouts half-heartedly, “You are tearing me apart, Lisa!” There are plenty of other examples, either written in broken English or simply nonsensical.

What exactly does Mark mean by “leave your stupid comments in your pocket”? And what adult says, “I like you very much, loverboy,” the way Lisa does? Occasionally “huh” is added to the end of a sentence for no apparent reason. There is no logical reason for why such lines are there. The audience is too busy laughing at the ineptitude of the script to take the film seriously.

The main plot is centered around blindly love-struck banker Johnny (Tommy Wiseau). He is convinced that his fiancée, Lisa (Juliette Danielle), is faithful. When he is not around, she fools around with his best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero). Things seem to be going great for Johnny at work as well until the audience learns that his boss has failed to give him his promised promotion.

Even the main plot surprises viewers with its inconsistencies. One minute Lisa is talking back to those who criticize Johnny, and the next she is talking about how boring he is or even claiming falsely that he has hit her. She even tricks Johnny, a non-drinker, into getting drunk to increase the odds of him hitting her, and he still does not, but she says he has.

Mark constantly forgets that he is having an affair with Lisa. Whenever she tries to seduce him, he expresses utter confusion. He asks her during one attempt, “The candles, the music, the sexy dress… what’s going on here?” A grand total of four sex scenes take place, but they appear to just be for the sake of showing sex scenes. Without them, the audience would still have no trouble understanding that Johnny is in love with Lisa and Lisa is in love with Mark.

Later on, Johnny announces that Lisa is pregnant, but she immediately reveals that she faked the pregnancy “to make it interesting.” Would Johnny not find out quickly that she was lying in that scenario? Good luck following such a plot; it is harder than it looks. The viewer is never sure just which way the relationship is going to go.

Worse still are the numerous subplots that pop up out of nowhere and have no resolution at all. What Claudette’s (Carolyn Minnott) real estate problems have to do with the rest of the movie is beyond comprehension, and the audience never learns how her breast cancer treatment goes after she announces that she has the disease.

Denny (Philip Haldiman) is a college student who randomly tries to get to Lisa, but he is too young for her, and as soon as Johnny brings up the unseen character of Elizabeth midway through the film, Denny changes his mind instantly. He owes money to pistol-wielding drug dealer Chris-R (Dan Janjigian), but the audience never learns what becomes of Chris-R or the debt, and Claudette somehow assumes that Denny was selling the drugs to Chris-R. One would think that an aging woman like Claudette would have long understood how the dealer-user relationship works.

Lisa’s best friend, Michelle (Robyn Paris), and her boyfriend, Mike (Scott Holmes), do everything at Johnny’s home, and Mike’s idea of a tragedy is when Claudette walks in on them and embarrasses him in front of Lisa. This is to say nothing of the two unexplained scenes in which all the male characters except Chris-R throw footballs around.

Those are not even all of the useless, unresolved subplots. None of these subplots add anything to the film other than confusing the audience even further. Sure, they lengthen the running time, but is that really more important than clarifying the main plot? Adding more subplots is not a suitable replacement for explaining what is going on.

So why do people still watch this movie 14 years after its release? For whatever reason, some get a thrill out of watching what was supposed to be a high-art drama descend into chaos. It appeals to the cynic in everyone because there is simply so much to make fun of. The sloppy dialogue, the ill-constructed plot, the weak acting of the lead: it is a modern-day equivalent of a freak show.

People’s sense of irony makes it so one just cannot help laughing at and remarking on the many, many flaws of the film. The viewer knowingly gets over themselves by watching it and it keeps them coming back for more. If one is up for that sort of thing, by all means. Just do not waste time trying to make sense of it.

When an unnamed character remarks, “I feel like I’m sitting on an atomic bomb just waiting for it to go off,” it is hard not to agree.

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