I’ve always been fascinated by bad movies; specifically by how they even come to be. I can understand how a bad book exists. Aside from its author, the only people who read it before publishing may be an editor and book agent. If all three of those people happen to be untalented or don’t work well together, I can see a bad product coming out. It shouldn’t occur terribly often, but I can see it happening.
I’ve got a great idea. Let’s spend half a book building up to an enormous battle, and then just have literally nothing happen!
But this logic doesn’t apply to movies. Even the smallest professional features will easily have dozens of actors, crew, and executives working on it. Most have hundreds, some have thousands. With all of those people involved in the months or years-long creation process, how can anything bad slip through? How can every moment not be perfect? How can you spend $48 million on an apocalyptic movie and think it’s a good idea to have characters TRY TO OUTRUN THE FREAKING WIND?
How can you make a movie about wind and not know how wind works? HOW CAN ANYONE NOT KNOW HOW WIND WORKS?
Okay, let’s calm down. I’m not here to talk about The Happening because I’ve learned I have severe anger issues with that movie. Instead, we’re going to discuss an amusing bad movie. One that is not just bad, but so comically inept that it comes around again and is an amazing watch. Ironically, even though the production of this movie was shrouded in mystery for a long time, it’s now the only bad movie where I can understand how it was made. So without further ado, let’s delve into one of 2003’s best features, The Room.
“I have something for yoo-ou.”
In case you’ve lived under a rock the past decade, The Room is the $6 million vanity project of one Tommy Wiseau. Mr. Wiseau is the writer, director, producer, sole funder, and star. The Room, at least in theory, is about a treacherous woman named Lisa who cheats on her ridiculously generous and loving husband Johnny (played by Tommy Wiseau) with his best friend Mark. This love triangle spirals out of control, destroying the lives of everyone involved until it culminates in visceral tragedy.
I said “in theory” because none of this movie makes any sense. Entire scenes have no connection to the plot. People’s motivations are constantly changing. Main characters disappear from the movie entirely and new ones are thrust in with no explanation of who they are. The dialogue is ridiculously stilted; it’s all something that a non-native English speaker would write in a first draft. There’s no chemistry between any of the actors, and most of them seem completely out of it (puzzlingly, this also holds true for Tommy Wiseau). In short, everything that could possibly go wrong in a movie goes wrong here.
In seven seconds you can understand what I’m talking about. Please realize that this scene took, and I swear I am not at all joking, 32 takes.
For ten years everyone who viewed this film wondered how it could possibly come to be; asking the same questions I highlighted in the opening of this post. Thankfully, we finally got answers in 2013 from one of the movie’s stars, Greg Sestero.
Written by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist is a humorous, intriguing, and surprisingly sad look at how The Room was made.
It turns out that absolutely everyone involved in The Room’s production immediately realized how awful this project was. There were constant, reasonable suggestions on how to improve the final product, but Tommy Wiseau utterly refused to put any of them in practice. It was his own ego, likely combined with an undiagnosed mental disorder, that led to the horrendous but insanely amusing The Room. (In all seriousness, it becomes quite clear in The Disaster Artist that Tommy Wiseau has some sort of mental issues.)
For all of the issues in this film that I noted a few paragraphs ago, I find the most interesting flaws relate to the characters. This is not only because, to me, characters are the most important part of any story, but also because the characters serve as an interesting microcosm of all this film’s missteps. Allow me to explain.
Johnny – played by Tommy Wiseau
Johnny is quite possibly the most fascinating character in any film ever. He has some kind of job at a bank for which he is very well compensated but apparently not appreciated. He has half a dozen close friends who all appear to be 10 – 15 years younger than him. He comes across strong evidence of his fiance’s affairs multiple times, but seems to forget these discoveries moments later. He laughs at tales of domestic abuse, seems to be in a drug-induced haze half the time, and, most importantly, loves tossing the football around with his friends.
But, and this is important, those friends cannot be more than five feet away from each other.
Johnny is supposed to the everyman, someone we can all relate to and root for. But his character is so naive and so cartoonishly played that he becomes a caricature of himself. Tommy Wiseau wanted to give a once in a lifetime performance as Johnny, and in that regard he definitely succeeded. No one else would have made the choices Tommy Wiseau made when acting this part, and I doubt anyone can replicate his style. For better or worse, Tommy and Johnny are one of a kind.
Lisa – played by Juliette Daniel
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Lisa is the most inconsistent character in The Room. In one scene she’ll be completely devoted to her fiance Johnny. In the next she’ll protest that she doesn’t love him anymore. Then she’ll proclaim that they’ll probably end up having a baby soon. What makes this even stranger is that when Lisa decides to be bad, she goes way past bitchy to full on psychotic. She lies about being pregnant to “make things interesting,” falsely tells her friends that Johnny beats her, and brushes off her mother’s breast cancer with a, “You’ll be fine.”
It’s fascinating to me that Tommy Wiseau wanted to create the worst, meanest character of all time, but couldn’t even get that right. The mere existence of Lisa exemplifies all of The Room‘s flaws. Even the simplest of tasks crumbles under the weight of Tommy’s incompetence, combining to create the worst film ever made.
Mark – played by Greg Sestero
“Johnny’s my best friend.”
Tommy Wiseau may be an inept actor, Juliette Daniels was in over her head with a character that made no sense, but it’s clear from his first scene that Greg Sestero just does not want to be in this film. In his book, Greg reveals the emotionally torturous process of filming The Room. Greg did it because he needed the money and felt pressure to help out his mentally unstable friend Tommy. What started out as a mutually beneficial favor turned into a destructive shoot that emotionally devastated this young actor.
But what about the character of Mark himself? Mark loudly proclaims every other scene that Johnny is his best friend, but Mark rarely shows any remorse for constantly having an affair with Lisa. Mark is also not that intelligent, considering that Lisa seduces him three times before he realizes what will happen when the two are alone together and Lisa starts undressing.
We’ve had sex twice now, but this is just a friendly ‘sitting on my lap and stroking my cheek,’ right?
Nothing is known of Mark’s job, his family, his hopes, or his desires. The entirety of Mark’s character is his friendship with Johnny and lust for Lisa. Lisa highlighted Tommy’s inability to keep a character’s motives straight, but Mark represents a bigger failure; he’s not really a character at all. He’s just an empty vessel, blindly having sex with all the fiances he can find and supporting his best friend by tossing the football around. He’s nothing.
“Keep your stupid comments in your pocket!”
Denny – played by Philip Haldiman
“I just like to watch you guys.”
Denny is the worst friend / semi-adopted son / next door neighbor ever. Denny is easily one of the creepiest characters to ever exist in any medium. He’s explicitly stated as being in college, but has the mentality of a child. He constantly pops into his neighbors’ house and insists on coming upstairs when they are going to have sex because he likes to watch. He buys drugs because he “needed some money.”
Apparently Denny skipped his economics classes, because I don’t think that’s why you buy drugs.
Despite repeated claims that Lisa and Johnny are like his adopted parents, he tells Johnny that he is in love with Lisa and wants to kiss her. Then, five seconds later, he explains that he’s in love with a classmate of his and wants to marry her. Like all the other characters, Denny makes no sense. Unlike all the others, Denny’s insanely creepy.
Peter – played by Kyle Vogt
“People are people.”
So what kind of incompetence does Peter represent? Peter’s a double whammy; he showcases Tommy’s inability to manage shooting as well as exemplifying his constantly dropping plot points.
Let’s focus first on how Peter represents Tommy’s ineptitude as head of production. Kyle Vogt made it clear when he signed on for The Room that he was only available for a small amount of time. Considering that Peter was only slated to be in a handful of scenes, a halfway competent director could have gotten this done easily. But Tommy is not halfway competent. He filmed tons of other scenes during this time that didn’t involve Peter, so of course Kyle Vogt couldn’t finish his last two scenes. Thus, Peter appears halfway through the movie and disappears roughly twenty minutes later, never to be seen again. Peter’s last two appearances were just basic lines chastising Lisa for being mean to Johnny, so his dialogue could easily have been given to someone like Denny. Instead, Tommy Wiseau decided to throw in a completely new main character during the last few minutes of the film.
To me, the more interesting issue Peter raises is how Tommy randomly throws in plot points and immediately snatches them away. Here’s a list of some of the things that are brought up in the room only to never be mentioned again.
- Lisa’s mother is diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Denny has a drug problem.
- Mark nearly throws Peter off of a roof in a fit of rage.
- Johnny is unfairly not given the promotion he was promised.
- Denny’s aforementioned obsession with Lisa.
Tommy loves leaving you hanging.
But what of Peter himself? He’s actually one of the more realistic characters. Don’t get me wrong, his performance isn’t Oscar-worthy. But he’s one of the only people with a defined job (psychologist), Kyle reads his lines well enough, and he shows concern for both Johnny and Mark. With a better script and director, Peter could have actually been a very interesting character. He knows about Mark’s affair with Lisa, so he has to try to steer both him and Johnny away from this psychopathic seductress without destroying their friendship. But this is The Room, so that intriguing concept is dropped as is Peter’s existence.
Steven – played by Greg Ellery
“This is going to pull us all down. This is going to shake up our group of friends.”
Steven is the character that replaced Peter. There’s very little to be said for this man, because he only appears for two scenes at the end of the movie to say Peter’s lines. He scolds Lisa, going into depth about how much she disgusts him as the audience wonders who this guy is. Then, a moment later, he scolds Lisa again. Then he’s gone forever, like so many of The Room’s plots and characters.
Claudette – played by Carolyn Minnot
“I got the results of the test back. I definitely have breast cancer.”
Claudette is one of the most beloved characters in The Room because of her sheer insanity. For the first of the half movie she appears on an endless loop. She has coffee with her daughter Lisa. Lisa tells her that she finds Johnny boring. Claudette says that Lisa needs to marry Johnny because she cannot support herself. Claudette quickly throws out a major problem she is facing (breast cancer, her brother trying to steal her house, the fact that she hasn’t been happy in years), Lisa says she’ll be fine, and Claudette leaves. This scene happens no less than three times. That’s all there is to Claudette, so that’s all I’ll say.
“If you think I’m tired today, wait until you see me tomorrow.”
Chris-R – played by Dan Jinjigian
“Where’s my f***ing money Denny?”
Chris-R perfectly encapsulates the “bizarro world” sense of this movie. Dan Jinjigian is by far the best actor in this film, so of course he’s only in one scene that has absolutely no bearing on the overall plot. He’s also the character that comes closest to having a last name. Chris-R is a terrifying drug dealer who apparently has a layaway program, because he accosts Denny for not having paid him yet. He threatens to shoot our favorite man-child, immediately gets overpowered by Mark and Tommy, and then is gone from the film forever. No mention of Chris-R or Denny’s drug problem is ever mentioned again.
Chris-R’s only scene, which is also one of the most famous from The Room.
Michelle – played by Robyn Paris
“Lisa, this isn’t right.”
Michelle is kind of a boring character to write about. She doesn’t have any outrageous scenes or lines and Robyn is one of the few solid actors in the film. What is interesting about her is how she represents the strange character decisions in this movie. As Lisa’s best friend, Michelle quickly learns that Lisa is cheating on Johnny with Mark. Lisa makes it clear that she does not approve of this and that she also has a great deal of respect for Johnny and considers him a friend. Yet she never does anything to stop this insanity other than tell Lisa that this is wrong about a dozen times.
This highlights one of the weirdest things about The Room. Johnny is portrayed as completely good and loveable. All of his friends clearly care a great deal about him and want him to be happy. Many of these people discover Lisa’s infidelity over the course of the film. But none of them every broach the topic with Johnny. Obviously, from a writing standpoint, this revelation would make the movie more difficult. But part of writing is addressing simple problems like this. If you want the characters to keep this a secret from Tommy, you have to give them a reason. You can’t just have them learn of this affair and then refuse to tell their best friend what’s going on. That’s Writing 101, but apparently Tommy skipped that class.
Just like Denny skipped those economics classes. We’re doing some call-back humor in this post.
Mike – played by Scott Holmes
“I’ve got to go see Michelle in a little bit to make out with her.”
Last but definitely not least, Mike is my favorite character from The Room. Nothing about him makes any sense; he’s somehow even more cartoony than Wiseau. He falls in line with Denny as a man-child. His only goals are to make out with his girlfriend Michelle, toss the football around, and eat chocolate. He also has the hand-eye coordination of a drunken three-year old.
Another of The Room’s most famous scenes, highlighting Mike. Be sure to stay until the end to watch Mike get injured from being gently tapped on the chest.
If there is any person I’d like to meet from this movie, it would be Scott Holmes. I have no idea why he made any of the choices he did in this film, but thank goodness he did.
The extent of Scott Holmes’ acting abilities.
So there you have it. When Tommy Wiseau made The Room, everyone involved told him how insane it was. They all insisted it was horrible and would never make a dime. Yet somehow, in the end, Tommy proved them wrong. His movie is no doubt awful, but it’s SO horrendously bad that it somehow becomes good again. I’ve tried to find numbers on how much The Room has made, but I don’t think there’s any info out there. But I’m certain that Wiseau has made at least a decent chunk of his $6 million dollars back from DVD sales, and his movie is beloved the world over. At the end of the day he created something that’s made thousands of people happy. So I guess, in a weird way, Tommy was right and The Room was a success. I strongly recommend you watch it twice. The first time you’ll be in complete shock at what is happening in front of you, but the second you’ll be able to appreciate the masterpiece that this movie truly is.
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