Did you know chocolate is the symbol of love?
I didn’t think it could be this bad. How’s it possible? How could the hype not prove hyperbolic? How could there not be one redeeming aspect in the entirety of Tommy Wiseau‘s vision? But then you watch and discover it’s true. The Room is quite possibly the worst movie ever made and people still watch it. That’s why “ever” tracks—we haven’t just dismissed it outright and stopped giving its creator credence. Instead the general public has fueled his yearning for fame by bestowing the “cult classic” label and bankrolling a never-ending screening tour that provides opportunities to pose for ironic photos that somewhere along the line stopped being ironic. At least Ed Wood kept working to improve his craft. Wiseau found infamy and decided it was enough.
The film is billed as the story of a selfless man who gives everything to the ones he loves, but that’s not what’s happening. Johnny (Wiseau) isn’t the hero here. He isn’t even the lead character. No, this charitable banker is the victim. The focus is pointed towards Lisa (Juliette Danielle) instead, Johnny’s “future wife.” When you hear that Wiseau treats The Room as semi-autobiographical you think it’s because he sees himself as a wonderful guy. What it actually means, however, is that he was scorned so badly by a woman he felt the compulsion to vilify her onscreen. He wanted to exorcise his demons by painting this monster that betrayed him as irredeemable while glossing over all the things he probably did to help push her away.
And he does it by depicting sex as a transactional tool since it appears he doesn’t know how else to show love. Johnny gives Lisa a gift and she takes him to the bedroom despite no longer loving him (but knowing that telling him this truth would destroy him). When Lisa wants her “future husband’s” best friend Mark (Greg Sestero) to love her, she seduces him as though the act of sexual intercourse trumps emotional desire. So she sleeps with one to keep him quiet and the other to satisfy her cravings. Lisa takes the spotlight as a master manipulative—a trait Wiseau is quick to attribute to her equally conniving mother (Carolyn Minnott‘s Claudette) as though he’s written a scathing diatribe on the evils of feminine deception.
What he doesn’t realize, though, is that Lisa isn’t without cause. Sure, she shouldn’t be sleeping around with her fiancé’s (I like to think that this word is never uttered because Wiseau’s weird accent prevented him from pronouncing it correctly) BFF, but she also shouldn’t remain in a loveless relationship just because Johnny is unstable. She expresses how bored she is with him to her mother—literally every single time they’re onscreen together. And we get it. He comes home with a depressed look on his face, talks about stuff that makes no sense, and craves sex with rose petals as though his only point of reference for romance is 1990-era R&B music videos. I’d want to get as far away from him as possible too.
The result is that we have no sympathy for anyone. Lisa has legitimate reasons to leave but chooses to stay and become an adulterous, self-centered bitch instead. Johnny is a sad sack who constantly lays it on thick that he’s here to help everyone in need despite being blind to his own shortcomings. And Mark’s moral conundrum pitting a fickle loyalty to his buddy against a complete lack of self-control on behalf of his penis proves he’s the most deplorable character onscreen. So why do we keep watching? Why do we feign interest in this melodramatic love triangle going nowhere? Oh, right. I didn’t. If not for the morbid curiosity of discovering who’d end up dead (there’s no other way to end it) I would have bailed early.
It’s not even funny to laugh at its indecipherable plotting, amateurish performances, or misplaced visual creativity (the time it must have taken to set-up the angle for when Kyle Vogt‘s Peter falls on the pavement while playing “football” is not worth the absolute lack of any payoff). Watching The Room and liking it may in fact be the new definition of insanity considering it’s the same four scenes repeated over and over again. One: Johnny and Lisa are in love. Two: Lisa laments to mom that she no longer loves Johnny. Three: Johnny talks about how good a guy he is and those around him smile and nod like he saved their lives with those words. Four: Mark says “No,” Lisa says “Yes,” and sex. Rinse and repeat.
There are also random interjections of strangers like Michelle (Robyn Paris) and Mike’s (Mike Holmes, the only actor wittingly or unwittingly cheesing it up) “make-out session” wherein his underwear is found off his body despite his clothes still being on. We constantly meet new characters without exposition or clarity, (Is Philip Haldiman‘s Denny implying he enjoys watching Johnny and Lisa have sex at the beginning? Why does he enter their home as though a laugh track should play every time the door opens?), and listen to others (Peter) say they don’t want to get involved in what’s happening a split-second before asking, “But how can I help?” And don’t get me started on the sitcom-esque exteriors of different locations despite the characters remaining exactly where they already were.
Time doesn’t exist in The Room as wardrobe changes scene to scene as though each presents a different day. Talk about Johnny and Lisa’s wedding happens every five minutes so that a scene where the guys are wearing tuxedoes implies the day finally arrived (it didn’t). And for some reason two men can’t be onscreen together without a football to toss around. The sex scenes are overlong, biologically impossible, and included as cut scenes like when a Bollywood film suddenly breaks for a music video. Wiseau’s nervous laughter becomes a character tick, Danielle’s Lisa has attention deficit disorder towards her emotions, and Sestero’s Mark becomes the poster child for Mike Pence’s predatory lack of restraint masked as “never be alone with a woman who isn’t your wife” rule.
Not to be mean, but watching Wiseau’s “masterpiece” left me with one truth: I’ve lost a modicum of respect for anyone who has ever viewed it more than once. I get the “appeal” of watching a train wreck, but at a certain point the whole ordeal turns in on itself to expose you as the actual joke. But I don’t pity Wiseau either. If anything I applaud him for having the guts to put six million dollars of his own money down for a passion project. The dude has no shame and he gets the job done no matter how incoherent the result proves. Even so, any respect I gained for his fearlessness is undercut by the fact he’s resigned himself to leaning into his infamy as salary.