Down the Rabbit Hole: The Room

Last weekend, I was exposed to one of the worst films ever made, Tommy Wiseau's The Room, which I'd never heard of, but which my friends were all too happy to show me clips from on the You-Tube. A few minutes later, we were watching the whole damn thing, all 100 minutes of it. This is the story of how I coped.

Now if you don't know about The Room, let me tell you a little about it, or if you like, you can watch the following "Best" moments from the film. Warning: It features brief strong language, wrinkly Wiseau buttocks, and a spoiler for the ending.

Ok, still with me? (I wouldn't blame you if you weren't.) When comparing terrible filmmakers, Ed Wood is merely naive, while Wiseau is truly clueless. He wrote, directed, produced, starred in and financed this 6 million dollar turkey, and it misfires on all cylinders. (Apparently, he fired and replaced cast and crew frequently, and had several understudies for each part, all on the payroll, which accounts for why not a lot of that money wound up on screen.) It was so bad when it was released in 2003 that one critic turned it into his own personal Mystery Science Theater experience and from there it became a cult film, like an accidental Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Wiseau now claims his piss-poor drama was meant to be a black comedy all along. Sure, Tommy, sure.
The plot goes like this: Wiseau is Johnny, a "happy go-lucky banker" who is engaged to be married to Lisa who unbeknownst to him has gotten bored and is now regularly seducing Johnny's best friend Mark. The first 15 minutes of the film include 3 or 4 sex scenes, which made us think this was a softcore porn (I'm not sure of the number because the Johnny/Lisa sex scene is repeated twice with many of the same shots), but then it lets up for an hour, thankfully. Johnny and Lisa live in an apartment building with a roof terrace, and it seems like everybody's welcome to walk in without knocking: Lisa's mom who wants her to stay with her meal ticket even if she doesn't love him; Denny, a kid whose tuition is paid by Johnny, but who acts like a child and also got himself into trouble with a drug dealer; Michelle and Mike, friends who walk in while no one's home to eat chocolate and each others' parts; Peter, the therapist who doesn't want to give advice but does (and Steven the guy he turns into when the actor left the production midway). The whole thing is rife with bad dialog, terrible acting (especially from the zombie-like Wiseau), an undecipherable time line, establishing shots that establish the wrong place, and inane scenes that add nothing to the plot (like lots of throwing footballs around). Eventually, the secret is out that Lisa wants to be with Mark, and after tearing his apartment apart, he goes to an even darker place (spoiler averted).
So how did I cope? By going into that place within myself that over-analyzes art (or in this case, "art"), the place that got me my degree in English lit, the place that allows me to make sense of the time paradoxes in Deep Space 9. And by going to that place, I FIGURED OUT WHAT THE ROOM IS REALLY ABOUT. You might want to sit down for this. The Room is about this girl Lisa who is producing ungodly amounts of pheromones. Like, sci-fi thriller levels. Think about it (if you've seen the movie, at least, I don't know if this is going to make sense without that context). Lisa spends her day lounging about on that couch, and she's been with Johnny 5 to 7 years (depending on the scene). He looks drug-addled, and even has some scenes where it looks like he's got magic brownie body freeze. And yet he doesn't drink, won't touch the stuff (until Lisa pushes it on him to spice up their relationship, or destroy it). So what is he high ON? Answer: Pheromones. When her friends walk in, they sit on that couch and immediately, and inappropriately, start having sex there. That couch is SOAKED in Lisa's pheromones. Mark, though he keeps protesting that he can't do that to Johnny, nevertheless can't resist her. Every male character in the story has to mention Lisa looks "hot" or some other descriptive. Poor, dim Denny jumps in bed with them because he wants to watch, not realizing it's inappropriate, and later asks if he can kiss her. Even Peter/Steven is seen chatter her up just before he tells her she's doing wrong by Johnny. It's all about her unbelievable animal magnetism. And the end surely shows a man in deep withdrawal.
I can even give Wiseau too much credit by saying that those gratuitous sex scenes up front are an attempt to hypersexualize Lisa so as to create a visual representation of something we can't experience, i.e. her pheromonal scent. But that's what you do when, purely to protect your own psyche, you grasp as straws and turn them into some kind of scarecrow or whatever else you might make out of straw.

Now do YOU dare watch the entire feature film? I recommend it, but only if you do so with friends. There's safety in numbers.


Anonymous said...

This is the only actual explanation of "The Room" I've ever heard that makes sense. Impressive!

Others have suggested this is a student film made by aliens studying earth culture; I hear it won the Zylorgian Galactic Award for "most realistic depiction of human society".

Siskoid said...

That might be the only non-ironic award it got.

Martin Léger said...

I'm sorry.

Siskoid said...

You WERE the prime instigator, weren't you?

But I also feel like my ignorance was partly responsible, like I made it happen because I blatantly proclaimed I'd never heard of it.

Bill D. said...

Tommy Wiseau looks, sounds, and acts like an alien trying to pass himself off as a hu-mon... one that gets it more or less right, but still, something's just kinda off about the whole thing. Makes me wonder if he's the real life Ford Prefect but a lot less cool.

Also, when I watched this for the first time, my brain could not make any sense out of what it was that I was watching. It's certainly bad, but in such a way that makes it strangely compelling. My wife usually hates this kind of thing, but I had her watch it and she she felt the same way. We've seen it twice now and have been talking lately about how it's probably time to watch it again.

Bill D. said...

Oh, and our favorite part is when he shows up at the florist's shop and raises his sunglasses, and the lady says "Oh. Johnny. I almost did not recognize you." Because if there's one thing Tommy Wiseau does better than anything in the world, it's blend in with a crowd.

Siskoid said...

Apparently today is Tommy Wiseau's birthday. It's a complete coincidence.

It's also Rob Liefeld's birthday. These events may be cosmically related.

Anonymous said...

Glasses make for an absolutely impenetrable disguise that Sol-3 inhabitants cannot see through. That's what they teach at the Golzornian Institute for Interplanetary Studies, anyway.

Anonymous said...

One other possible explanation of "The Room":


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