This piece was written by Joe Donatelli. You can find more of Joe’s work at thehumorcolumnist.com.
The Laemmle Sunset 5 theater in Los Angeles has closed. This is a serious blow to those of us who live in Los Angeles and love attending midnight screenings of the worst movie ever made. If you never made it to the Laemmle to see The Room, here is what you missed…
The entrance to Laemmle’s Sunset 5 Theatre is on the second floor of a shopping complex on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Tommy Wiseau bounds down the front steps of the theater to enthusiastic applause from the hundreds of people who lined the building’s second-floor walkway. Without breaking stride, Wiseau jumps on an interior wall that separates the walkway from a 40-foot drop to the first-floor courtyard. He runs for three or four seconds before jumping down to safety and soaking in more applause from the young and boozy who have gathered for a midnight screening of his so-bad-it’s-good movie, The Room. It was a moment that captured the essence of the man. Tommy Wiseau is a brilliant showman. He is also an idiot.
The Room is the worst movie I have ever seen. It is also the most fun I have had in a movie theater. A little background for those who have never heard of the 2003 independent movie. The Room is the story of a tragic love triangle. It was written (was it actually written? hard to tell), directed (did anyone actually direct it? hard to tell) and produced (you get the point) by Wiseau. It also stars Wiseau (pictured above to the right). Hollywood spent years telling him not to make this movie, in every way it knew how. He found the $6 million he needed and made it anyway. When it was released, The Room flopped, and for good reason. It fails as a movie. Major plot points are introduced and never addressed. Characters mysteriously appear and disappear. The dialogue is hack, and some of the audio is dubbed, even though the movie is in English. Shots are out of focus. Wiseau is naked for an unforgivable amount of time and his backside has divots and crevices that evoke imagery of a canyon on some dark planet.
What makes the movie-going experience wonderful are the fans who have memorized every line of every scene and interact with the film in a manner that fully celebrates its badness. It’s the new Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The Room contains so many specific oddities, I hardly know where to begin. So, what the hell, let’s talk about the footballs.
The characters in the film spend a lot of time throwing footballs to each other over a distance of about four feet. It was as if Wiseau read a book on screenplay writing that said, “Make sure that in dialogue-heavy scenes your characters are physically active also.” OK, Wiseau, must have thought, they can throw a football while standing next to each other. That meets the minimum requirement of physically active. And hey, let’s do it in almost every scene. Now we only have to buy one football instead of, say, renting a restaurant or shutting down a street or putting a camera inside a car. You should know the dramatic movie you are making is not going to be good when, before every scene, you have to locate the football.
To honor this brilliant bit of filmmaking, fans bring footballs and play catch inside the theater, where geeks who don’t know how to properly throw a football throw it anyway and accidentally hit people holding drinks and snacks. Normally, being hit with a football might ruin your night, but the vibe at The Room is, “Yeah, you knocked the popcorn and drink out of my hands, but nothing is going to be worse than what’s about to happen to all of us.”
Wiseau attends the screenings in Hollywood and takes questions from the audience before the movie starts. No valuable information is revealed, and the whole setup appears to be an excuse for him to flirt with girls. During his Q&A in our theater, the director, when asked what his childhood was like, responded “fish, water, tree, church,” in those exact words. I wish I could say, yeah, that’s deep, it kind of makes sense, but it made no sense at all and is stupid.
Probably the most shocking aspect of the cult movie experience is the manner in which the audience treats the character Lisa, played by Juliette Danielle. Wiseau plays Johnny, and Lisa is Johnny’s love interest. A girl of average size, Lisa is nonetheless savaged by the audience with a “boom” every time she takes a step. At one point, during a love scene, several members of the audience yell out, with their tone mimicking panic, “Get off him! You’ll kill him!” When the doorbell rings and Lisa hears it, people yell “I hope it’s pizza.” When it’s a person and not a pizza, they respond with a disappointed, “You’re not food!” The Lisa character is a horrible person who lies and cheats and is a discredit to humankind. Johnny, naturally, is in love with her.
The best worst scene in the movie is this scene between Lisa and her friend who does not respond to horrible news like an actual human being. Lisa is the blonde. Watch Lisa’s neck. Another director would have put his actress in a more flattering position. Not Wiseau. This was the take that made the final cut. Yes, it looks like Kuato from Total Recall is trying to escape from her body.
The Room is a gift to anyone who enjoys publicly raging against incompetence. This movie gives. It gives and it gives. For no reason, a drug dealer tries to kill one of the main characters. For no reason, Lisa’s mother says she has cancer, and then never speaks of it again. For no reason, the Peter character just disappears from the film. And the final shot of the movie is, quite possibly, the worst cinematic choice ever made by someone trying to capture a dramatic moment. I would write more, but I don’t want to ruin any of the fun for you, if you have not seen it, and you absolutely should.
If you do go to a public screening, bring plastic spoons.
Don’t ask why, when it comes to The Room. Never, ever ask why.