The Room (2003)

19 Mar

Even garbage can  have a lot to say.  I am a big believer in the value of low art and what it says about the social and political climate of the time and the anxieties that lie within. The Room is below that, but in being below even low art it can capture, though unintentionally, issues that we face. I feel it unnecessary to explain why this is a bad film, it is famously terrible and rightly so. The reason that this film is even notable is for how terrible it is, it has gained a cult status as camp.

For the purposes of this post, I will not use “Johnny,” the character’s name, but rather “Tommy” the actor who portrays him who is also the director, writer and producer. It is rather uncommon to use the actors name in describing a film in place of the character, but the character and the film is so obviously a love letter to Tommy Wiseau from himself.  He has sex with the beautiful woman and is betrayed by her, he is nothing but sensitive and loving, truly made from the image of the God of the film (the director, writer and producer: Tommy).  Tommy sees himself in Johnny and I will indulge him in making them one in the same.

After doing some research on Wikipedia, I have found that there isn’t much information about Tommy Wiseau available. He claims to have grown up in New Orleans, but I am more inclined to think that he is from somewhere in Eastern Europe based on his thick accent that makes so much of the film so funny.  The way that I see The Room is that it is made by someone on the outside looking in. We begin the film with exterior shots of the golden gate bridge and San Fransisco. A lot of them. And then more of them. And they are repeated throughout the film. We are meant to be shown the majesty of this place through the eyes of the director. He feels this needs to be shown because of how amazing it is. We as an audience laugh because this is so cliche, but these landscapes are fresh to someone who has never seen anything like them before.

When they talk about Tommy Wiseau, a lot of people cite how he obviously loves American film and he made The Room out of his love for film. I would be inclined to agree, but I would say that the result would be like taking something written in English pasting it into google translate, switch it to Chinese, then translating it back into  English. The elements are there, but the one doing the translation doesn’t truly understand how it works. The film is a distillation of American culture seen through the eyes of television and late night melodramas on premium cable. One of my favorite things that have been said about the film is a quote from my friend Ben Gordon who said “it’s a film made by someone who doesn’t know how people interact with one another” (I am paraphrasing). It really is that, the dialogue is completely stilted and is either expository of completely out of left field. The way that he sees America is through the eyes of the media, and he just happened to see a lot of poorly written media.

When we watch Borat we laugh at the way that he sees American culture. But Tommy sees it the same way: it is all about football and blondes with fake tits. So he made a movie about a blonde with fake tits where the men play a lot of football. In a way, the film is about both Tommy’s living the American dream, he’s (sort of) got his blonde with fake tits and the other is being a big shot filmmaker making a film about it. What is interesting is how much of colossal failure both Tommy’s are. Movie Tommy is cuckolded and obviously doesn’t know how football works outside of awkwardly throwing the ball a short distance to a teammate (and sometimes during a jogging session) and filmmaker Tommy yells “cut! print! move on!”.

We as an American audience watch his failures and are entertained by them. We mockingly root for movie Tommy and laugh as he cries out for his beloved Lisa and watch filmmaker Tommy’s movie and enjoy it ironically only enjoying it for it’s poorness. The American dream is one that is not easily gained and easily lost and apparently there are plenty of fold ready to watch those who try, and laugh as they fail.

Or does he fail? Is the film holding up the mirror to what he sees as the facade of real American life? The ideal faked titted blonde is a bitch that we never should have liked in the first place.  Football is awkward, slightly homo erotic and really does consist of passing a ball short distances. San Fransisco only looks like that in post-cards.  The films that we see are fake and are nothing but actors (bad ones) trying to mimic real life in front of greenscreens and mostly failing. And though this movie is bad, people still put up their twelve dollars to see it (I paid twelve dollars to see it) even though they know it’s terrible. So in the end, isn’t the joke on us?

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