External Link: The best moments from The Room
If you're ever invited to a screening of The Room, here's some advice: bring plastic spoons.
If that statement makes no sense to you, it's time to get amongst the legacy of the best worst movie ever made — a genuine indie drama so woeful it has become a sell-out, cult classic, and the basis for the new James Franco-directed film The Disaster Artist.
What is The Room?
Tommy Wiseau, an aspiring film star of unclear origins (more on that later), wrote the script in the late 1990s after struggling to forge a career as an actor.
The Room is an extremely earnest drama about — actually, it's not really clear what it's "about". It revolves around a successful banker, Johnny (Wiseau), whose life falls apart as his fiance, Lisa, takes up with his best friend, Mark.
Some other things happen — a teenager played by someone who is definitely not a teenager gets involved with drugs — and then, spurned by life and love, Johnny takes his own life.
The film was released in 2003. It played for two weeks at a theatre in Los Angeles.
Initial reactions were not good, primarily because:
- the acting is cringe-worthy;
- the dialogue is tone-deaf;
- some of the shots are literally unbelievable;
- some of the scenes are out of focus, for no reason;
- characters are always throwing around a football, for no reason;
- much of the dialogue is out of sync;
- parts of the plot seem illogical, with characters speaking key lines despite never being introduced to the audience
And the list goes on. It's why Entertainment Weekly famously referred to The Room as "the Citizen Kane of bad movies".
It's also why watching The Room is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Why do people still flock to to see it?
Alex Temesvari, deputy GM of Sydney's Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, which holds monthly screenings, said his cinemas were considered the number one Room location in the world.
"It floors us how popular this thing has become," he said. "Our main auditorium is a 700-seater, and we sell that out every single month."
Mr Temesvari thinks it's Wiseau's conviction — his belief that he is making a masterpiece, that he's the next Tennessee Williams — that makes The Room rise above your average low-quality flick.
"How does he not realise that it is so bad?"
Despite the early negative reception — one review included the phrase: "Watching this film is like getting stabbed in the head" — The Room started to develop a following among comedians. They kept asking Wiseau to put on screenings.
Photo: "You're tearing me apart, Lisa!" (Supplied: Cinema Nova)
"They started telling their friends, who told their friends, and over time, it's gained this cult status, where now it's playing at these midnight screenings all over the world," Dave Franco, who plays Mark in The Disaster Artist and is James's brother, told triple j Breakfast.
"It's the movie that my brother and I have seen more than any other movie in existence, so this is our love letter to that film. I've probably seen that movie 25 to 30 times."
At screenings, you'll often see people wearing t-shirts bearing key quotes from the film — "You're tearing me apart, Lisa" being a popular one — and, sometimes, audience members will bring footballs to throw around the cinema.
"I think because there is such a big cult following around it, I wanted to get an idea of what the appeal is," Rebecca Drew, from Melbourne, told the ABC at a recent late-night screening at Carlton's Cinema Nova.
Natalie Smoothy, also at the screening, had read about the film's reputation.
"I have to admit, when we were walking up here, I was like, 'Oh, it's an hour and 35 minutes'. I don't mind if it's funny-craptacular, but if it's cringey, an hour and 35 minutes is going to be pretty hard."
The mystery continues
Photo: Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) and Mark (Greg Sistero) and a football in a scene on the balcony. (Supplied: Cinema Nova)
Wiseau produced, directed, acted in and financed the film, and has built an obscure kind of stardom off the back of this amazing/terrible piece of movie-making.
But the man himself remains an enigma.
Though he claims to be from New Orleans, his accent sounds Eastern European. (He recently admitted he "grew up in Europe a long time ago".) He claimed during filming of The Room to be in his 20s, but he looks much older.
The origin of his wealth — how he managed to spend $6 million making the film — is also unclear.
"We pried, we asked everyone who knew Tommy if they knew the answers to any of these questions," Dave Franco said. "And we are just as confused as we were before we started making our film."
And what of the spoons?
Legend has it that Wiseau sent the film's art department to find more furnishings for the set. They came back with a lot of framed photos of spoons (??).
Those spoons are so ubiquitous as to almost be a character. According to IMDB, there are 24 shots of the spoons.
Photo: The spoons!! (ABC)
At screenings of The Room, audience members throw plastic spoons at the screen. (Once, at the Orpheum, they went through 15,000 spoons in one session.)
You can think of this as a representation of the audience's love-hate relationship with The Room — a movie that, 13 years later, against all odds and general assumptions about filmmaking, somehow endures.
"There is this warmness to the badness," Mr Temesvari said.
"It is so hard to explain to people.
"I say, 'trust me. It is the worst movie ever made, but it is also the most fun you will have in the cinema'."...Read more