Movie review: “The Room”

I’ve seen a lot of terrible movies, from “Night of the Lepus” and “Battlefield Earth” to “Xanadu” and “Plan 9 From Outer Space”. “The Room” beats them all. Believe the hype, this could be the next Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Let me start by listing the things that are right about this movie: The sets are competently lit.

Everything else is wrong, even the most basic elements of movie making. Scenes are intercut with what you might mistake for establishing shots, for no apparent reason. Actual establishing shots start to tilt part way through panning. Even the end credits have mysterious blacked-out areas that scroll at the wrong speed. And through the whole thing lurches the auteur responsible, Tommy Wiseau–writer, director, producer, and for want of a better term, actor.

He’s a man for whom English is clearly a second language. His characters often speak in apparently random collections of clichés, or hammer home plot points through verbatim repetition. People in “The Room” lurch from laughter to sorrow and back like they all have rapid cycling bipolar disorder, until you start to feel faintly hysterical yourself from trying to keep track of what the mood of the scene is supposed to be. Above all, the lead characters exhibit an autistic level of emotional understanding, behaving towards each other in ways that make no sense at all. It’s a world where chickens tweet, pillows have sharp edges, and men casually ask friends “So, how’s your sex life?” The reactions of the characters in the final climactic scene make me wonder if the writer has even met any human beings. It’s almost as though the script was written by an alien, or generated by a piece of software.

If Wiseau as a writer is bad, Wiseau the actor is even worse, making the rest of the porn-movie-grade acting look good by comparison. He has the facial expressiveness of a stroke victim, and walks as though he was taught to do it by chimpanzees. His robotic flatness of affect is bizarre, given that he’s apparently able to show emotions in the director’s interview. The sex scenes are the stuff of nightmares–well, I say ‘scenes’ plural, but the second time his Johnny character air-humps his girlfriend, we’re treated to the exact same shots as the first time (though mercifully cut short).

Wiseau allegedly spent $6m on “The Room”. This is no low-budget production; rather than just shooting on top of a convenient building, he apparently shot the rooftop scenes in a studio using green screen, and then dropped in footage of San Francisco by computer. Of course, since he didn’t use motion control cameras, the background doesn’t always end up moving properly relative to the characters. The studio set is then re-used later on to represent a different location–one whose physical existence is inexplicable given the supposed exterior of the apartment where most of the action takes place.

In short, “The Room” is amazingly bad. It’s almost hard to believe it’s not deliberately bad, some sort of dadaist prank. If you enjoy watching bad movies, you really need to see this one.