I won’t say that The Room (2003) is my favourite film of all time, as much as it may seem to everyone else. I talk about it a lot, I implore people to watch it as soon as possible and as often as possible. Every piece of trivia, I swallow up and store for winter/whenever the subject is brought up. But I can’t say it’s my favourite film because it simply isn’t. If anything, it’s my favourite film experience.
My first viewing of The Room is hazy. I remember hearing about it in college and completely forgetting about it until I started watching a series on Youtube called “Everything Wrong With…” by the channel CinemaSins. I thought the video that focused on The Room was hilarious but I still prolonged watching the actual film until my best friend visited me at university.
We sat together in my cold, tiny room, huddled over my laptop, duvet stretched across our shoulders, and watched the plight of Johnny unfold. His fiancée, Lisa, is in love and having an affair with his best friend, Mark who gets confused every time she initiates sex. His kind of adopted son, but not really (it’s a very confusing relationship) Donny is embroiled in drugs for all of two minutes. His mother in law, Claudette, has breast cancer. He didn’t get his promotion at work. Honestly, Johnny gets put through the ringer in this film. Everything shitty that could happen to a guy, happens to Johnny.
But you don’t watch The Room for the plot. You can’t. The plot is nonsensical, because of course it is. You’re supposed to route for Johnny, a supposedly sympathetic man who does everything for everyone and gets only betrayed in return. He lets his friends enter his house when he isn’t home so they can have sex. What a good guy, right? Why is the world so harsh on this wonderful man?
No, you watch The Room for its notoriety. You watch The Room for the classic lines, such as ‘You’re not my fucking mother!’, ‘You can fall off the Earth. That’s a promise’ and, of course, ‘YOU ARE TEARING ME APART LISA’. You watch it for the change in characters – where does the Pete the psychologist go? Where does ‘Me Underwears’ guy go? Does his relationship work out with Lisa’s friend?
You watch it for the scenes that are left unexplained or unanswered – playing American football in tuxes, Claudette’s breast cancer, Mark’s supposed weed problem. You watch it for the awkward sex scenes with dubbed moaning and ridiculously noughties music. You watch it because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t believe anyone trying to explain it.
My friend and I still regularly watch it. We quote it back and forth to each other. Every meme we have found and sent to each other. If one finds a guy that loves it as much as we do, the other instantly approves. From there, it blossomed. I forced my own partner to watch it. Anytime it was mentioned when I returned to university, my interest would peak and I would slide my way into the conversation. Anyone who hasn’t seen it, would see it as soon as I could possibly throw it in their face.
Fairly soon, The Room was more than just a bad film I had watched a few times. It was something that was bringing me closer to other people, creating friendships that I quite possibly wouldn’t have had without Tommy Wiseau’s personal masterpiece.
The independent film that no one thought would see the light of day, has since become a phenomenon. Greg Sestero who plays Mark has written a book about his experiences and his friendship with Tommy called The Disaster Artist. Many celebrities have admitted their love for it, including James Franco and Seth Rogen, who have now taken Greg’s book and turned it into a film of their own. It’s a film about the filming of The Room. People are genuinely excited whenever Tommy Wiseau visits for screenings of The Room. They throw spoons at the screen, they chime in at the infamous lines, they heckle but they all have genuine enjoyment of an otherwise terrible film. There is a huge community of fans and I still find it incredible.
The Prince Charles Cinema, which is located in Leicester Square in London, often holds screenings of The Room. I was fortunate enough to go to one when Tommy Wiseau was there as well, along with my partner. Having since read The Disaster Artist and having watched The Room many times, I have no idea what I expected from him. At the time, Wiseau was enigmatic in my head, a man with a mysterious past and a distinctive but unexplainable accent. Someone who could switch from your best friend to your worst enemy. Seeing him live and interact with the crowd who had shown up to simply adore him and his work – he seemed happy. He was genuinely funny. Strange, easily diverting from the questions being asked to him but still funny. No one was laughing at him. They were all with him.
I returned to The Prince Charles Cinema only recently to view Tommy and Greg’s new film, Best F[r]iends, with my partner and a university friend who shared the same love of The Room. This time I had the greatest joy of actually meeting them, having them sign my script and book (Tommy wrote ‘Love is blind Laurea’ on my script, which I will cherish for the rest of my life). On stage, Tommy was charismatic and engaging, with Greg taking a step from the spotlight and remaining more reserved. Tommy had the audience eating from the palm of his hand – he could have declared war and we would have all followed him into battle.
In my mind, once I had met them both, I felt done with the obsession that had been reigning over my life for at least five years. I had read the book, I had consumed the trivia, I had watched it many times over and over and now finally, I had met the men who had brought this insanity into my life. In my mind, it was over – it was done.
As I sat there, watching the slicker but still just as bizarre Best F[r]iends, I realised that no – this will never leave my life. I have no idea how it managed to, but somehow the cult film has managed to wriggle its way under my skin, creating an insatiable fascination about it and everyone and everything involved. I know I am not the first to have had this feeling, not even the first to have it about this film. Of course I’m not, otherwise it would be only myself and anyone I could drag who be at those screenings.
In all honesty, there is something admirable about The Room. Someone had a vision and whilst it has ended up being labeled ‘The Best Worst Film of All Time’, Tommy Wiseau still achieved his dream. Albeit, he went about it in seemingly the most exhausting way possible but he still managed to make his own personal fantasy, a wildly popular reality. It has become almost legendary since it first hit screens nearly fourteen years ago. People will come from all over in order to see him speak live and to throw plastic cutlery at a screen.
Maybe that’s what I like about it. Maybe now knowing the amount of hard work that went alongside the absolute madness has given me a new respect for, not only Tommy, but everyone involved. The film making process is an incredibly difficult one – not many people, even those who have studio money and aren’t self funded like Tommy, are able to achieve as much popularity as this one, truly terrible film does. Maybe the determination of Tommy is something to aspire to as much as it is something to be oddly fascinated by.
All that I know is, I want Tommy Wiseau’s laugh etched on my gravestone.