The Room: A Mediocre Movie, A Midnight Event

31 Mar

by Simon Jones

Published: May 16, 2011 

On the last Friday of every month, the Village East Cinema shows a very unique midnight movie.  People line up outside the theater as early as 10:30.  Once inside, the smell of alcohol flies through the air along with footballs tossed by the audience.  As the theater darkens, the entire audience erupts into applause.

Fans eagerly participate with the movie.  The shout out quotes ripped from the script, riff on the dialogue, and throw plastic spoons at the screen.  As the movie enters its sexual scenes, people wave their lighters and cell phones in the air.

The film being shown is The Room.  The Room is an independent film, directed by a previously unknown filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, which has the reputation of being one of the worst movies ever made.  Considered his magnum opus, the film is often called the “Citizen Kane of bad movies”.  A CNN article explains that The Room, originally released in 2003, bombed in the box office.

Despite all this, though, The Room has attracted a major cult following.  Movie theaters in major cities around the country, including the Village East Cinema, now do midnight screenings reminiscent of showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, except whereas The Rocky Horror Picture Show is often admired for its clever writing and music, The Room is usually celebrated for its mediocrity.

George Gross hosts the midnight screenings at the East Village Cinema.  ”It’s fun getting together with a bunch of strangers and enjoying an inside joke,” Gross said.

According to theroommovie.com, The Room is currently being shown in cities all over the world, including Portland, Chicago, Toronto, and even London.  And since the Village East Cinema has started screening the film, the showings have always sold out.

The Room screenings are unique because of the audience participation. During a screening of the film on March 28, 2011, the audience participates in almost every aspect of the film.  Fans flocked to the theater with bags full of plastic spoons to be thrown at the screen later on.  Footballs were thrown around the theater before show time, a homage to the football scenes of the film.  One fan even showed up to the theater dressed as the main character, complete with long black hair and accent.

Saul Zandi was the one of the first people online for the screening on March 28, 2011.  “The Room is kind of like a litmus test,” Zandi said.  “It’s something else to everybody.”  The showing along with seasoned veterans of the midnight screening, contained a lot of “room newbies” whose first time attending a screening.  Lauren O’Conner, new to the screening, giggled heartily as she announced ,“This is my first time seeing it.”

The back story to The Room is almost as strange as the film itself.  The director, Tommy Wiseau, has virtually no history.  In interviews, he refuses to answer questions about his origins or where he got the $7 million to make The Room.  With his heavy, yet indistinguishable, accent, and long black hair, at best, Tommy Wiseau is an enigma.

Tommy Wiseau wielded heavy control in making his film.  The first few minutes of The Room contain the opening credits, which points out that Wiseau was the director, producer, writer, and producer again of the movie.  Tommy Wiseau also plays the main character in the film.  Wiseau’s ineptitude in both directing and acting help create the popularity of the movie.

Douglas Walker is an Internet comedian who reviews movies every week under the guise of the Nostalgia Critic.  He reviewed The Room in July 2010.  “It’s really worth checking out,” Walker said, in his harsh review of the film.  “It’s one of those movies you have to see to believe.  No one could willingly make a movie this interestingly bad.”

Written as a drama, the story includes the main character, Johnny, and his fiancée, Lisa.  They are both excited about their upcoming marriage, but things get complicated when Johnny’s best friend, Mark, starts sleeping with Lisa.  While deceptively simply, several factors turn the film into a bizarre mess that makes it so popular among fans.

The Room is a film that is all over the place.  Denny is “like a son” to Johnny, and often pops in on him and Lisa.  At one point in the movie, he’s threatened by a drug dealer dubbed Chris R., and Johnny and Mark have to save him.  This incident is never alluded to again in the film.  Likewise, Lisa’s mother, Claudette, while sitting with her daughter, mentions out of nowhere that she “definitely [has] breast cancer”.   It is never addressed or mentioned afterwards. Lisa is seduces Mark three times in the film, but Mark is surprised each time it happens.  In one scene Johnny goes from being angry about rumors that he hit his fiancée to laughing at a story about a woman hospitalized from domestic abuse.  Characters are introduced with no exposition as to who they are, and one disappears halfway through the movie for no reason.  The main character, Johnny, has many lines that have become popular among fans.

A lot of the movie is taken up by scenes of characters playing football, once while in tuxedos, awkward sex, and pans across San Francisco.  A particular fan favorite is a scene at a flower shop that lasts no longer that 30 seconds.  Stock phrases such as “Oh Hi” and “Don’t worry about it” are used constantly throughout the film.

Tommy Wiseau himself may best explain the essence of the midnight screenings.  In his interview of the DVD of The Room, Wiseau gives a command to the midnight audiences.  “You can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself, but please don’t hurt each other. Enjoy the movie!”

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