Four weeks ago, my life was irrevocably changed.
I sat down in my living room with Roommate Dan and watched a piece of cinema history that forced me to completely re-evaluate my definition of art over the course of its 99 minute run-time.
Normally, I'm not one of those masochistic people who enjoy bad movies. I find them to be a waste of time, especially when there are hundreds of exceptionally good movies that I could watch instead. However, Tommy Wiseau's The Room is a piece of art that transcends bad and good.
In order to gain proper context on The Room, it must be understood that this is a movie that was Starring, Written, Directed, and Produced by a single person- the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau.
Not much is known about Wiseau. He is very secretive about his origins, though there are few things that are certain: he is much older than he claims to be and English is not his first language. These two things alone play a huge part in the Room experience: Johnny (played by Wiseau) is supposed to be this All-American banker, who for some reason spends all of his time with people half his age. Watching Wiseau flounder through his lines in his accent as he talks to his best friend Mark (twenty years his junior) just adds to the surreal atmosphere that permeates this movie.
Then there's the writing. It's clear that Wiseau has never considered picking up a book on screenwriting. The script (and movie) is riddled with such lines as "Leave your stupid comments in your pocket!" or "As far as I'm concerned, you can drop off the earth. That's a promise." Or this glorious exchange:
This clip also illustrates another essential aspect of this movie. It is technically bad in addition to stylistically bad. There are scores of continuity errors. Bad sound dubbing. Plot holes on plot holes. Inexplicable scenes that lead nowhere. This might as well be a guide on how to not make a movie.
Under normal circumstances, this would make for a horrible viewing experience. But, like the Megazord or Captain Planet, The Room is greater than the sum of its parts. It is hilarious. I was in stitches on my first viewing. Even beyond that, it's confounding. I couldn't stop thinking about the movie after the credits started rolling. It permeated my thoughts. I read about it on the web every chance I got. It was only two days before I re-watched it and it was just as bit as funny as the first time, if not more as I noticed more errors.
You could spend the next decade working on making a movie as bad as The Room and you wouldn't be able to touch Wiseau's masterpiece. And while there's much debate over why this movie is so amazing, at least part of the reason is because the effort is completely genuine. Tommy Wiseau was trying to create something written by Tennessee Williams and starring James Dean and instead came up with something written by and starring...himself. And it is a true work art. If I were to teach a class on the nature of art, the first thing I would do is screen this movie and moderate the inevitable argument over whether The Room even qualifies as art.
I highly recommend watching The Room. Get a group of friends together and laugh your asses off. Go to a midnight screening and toss around a football with the other fans. If you're REALLY interested in the lore, check out the book The Disaster Artist, which is a firsthand account of how The Room was made, written by Greg Sestero (who played Johnny's best friend Mark).