A great American movie. That is what director, producer, writer and star Tommy Wiseau wished to create when taking on The Room. Toiling away in a living room, cordoned off by black, velvet curtains, Wiseau penned a script that would be his take on the American dream. He would take his love of The Talented Mr. Ripley and James Dean and earnestly adopt them into his own work. He shoots his shot and flies as high as a man of his talents possibly can. We are at a moment in our lives where the insecurities of the crew and the anger of the cast within The Room are as interesting as the car-crash comedic culture the film has brought audiences.
Where these moments lie are in the themes and stars. There are obvious notes to pick up on. Wiseau’s acting, the blurry lenses that take on that lack of care behind the scenes, Greg Sestero phoning in his performance, and who can blame him? The Room is a husk of a film, and had it not been directed with incompetency on a whole new level, would simply have been an unpalatable bore. It is the awkward fascination we have with Wiseau that gets this feature over the finish line. Accidental humour, the so-bad-its-good nature blends with true, extraordinary impact. Stock piano notes hover over Johnny (Wiseau) and Lisa (Juliette Danielle) as they drink their “skotchka’s” and replicate not the effects of drunkenness, but huffing paint. It is one of the many glorious scenes within, from Johnny buying flowers to the infamous “I did not hit her” rooftop tirade.
It is how these moments are cobbled together that strikes the most intrigue, though. Much of the humour comes from that nonchalant nature the cast and crew have and the seriousness of which Wiseau is seemingly conducting himself. Mark (Sestero) is unable to convey real emotion. Who can blame him, though, as Sestero has the odds stacked against him. A horrid script does nothing to help any of these cast members. Again, without this set of angered, defeated actors and the madman at the heart of it all, there is no way The Room would have any comedic value, much less cultural importance. It is a piece of entertainment that shot for the stars, fell from grace, yet rebounded with a force and intensity that allowed Wiseau and his crew to prevail far more than they should have.
It is, as Greg Sestero puts so aptly in his book, a director whose “existential cry for help” has spilt over onto the frame. A cry for help it may be, there is something inherently hilarious about The Room. At its heart, there is a simple story of a friend betraying a friend. Such a storyline can be adapted and torn apart through various different mediums, but it has never been so intimately, unintentionally hilarious as it is here. The Disaster Artist, Sestero’s book on his experience filming The Room and his friendship with Wiseau, will serve as a marvellous companion piece to the themes and decisions made throughout this oddity of culture. May we never forget how good it got.