Written, Directed, Produced by, and Starring Tommy Wiseau, “The Room” (2003) is the story of love, betrayal, and ultimately, death. The story centers around Tommy (original sounding name) and his girlfriend, “Future wife…Not fiance”, Lisa (Juliette Daniels) and his best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero.) Tommy lives in a state of almost narcissistic bliss as he drifts from scene to scene emoting and spouting nonseasonal gibberish he finds both insightful and wise. Mark and Lisa have been carrying on an affair behind Tommy’s back for some time before the movie begins. Tommy only learns of the affair towards the end and commits suicide in a fit of self-pity fueled rage. There’s a secondary plot line involving Denny, a young man Tommy mentors in a Big Brother type program that is left largely unresolved.
This whole movie is unresolved plot. The characters walk through the scenes in often wooden or stilted poses. There’s no soul here. Tommy drifts in and out as if in some wild fever dream. Sestero at least manages an emotion other than the scornful glare of Lisa or Denny’s eternal optimistic moon face. The most compelling aspect of Juliette Daniels’s performance is how she managed to do love scenes with Wiseau without losing her lunch, although her distaste of him comes through strongly when Lisa tells her mother about the affair with Mark. I was hypnotized by the weird pulsating throbbing mass in her neck as she rants about how garbage Tommy is. This relationship is falling apart quickly but Tommy just can’t see the signs because he’s always distracted by something or another. Even when he finally does express almost human feelings he one-eighties back to happy-happy-joy-joy land when he sees someone he is pleased to encounter. After hearing the news of Lisa’s affair, a heartbroken Tommy wreaks havoc in the living room and shoots himself with a pistol.
Alright. There is resolution. It’s just not a straight road. The film has entire moments which serve little if any purpose than to fill time. One of Tommy’s favorite past times is playing football. Or more specifically, a game of Catch between grown men standing in a circle. There may be a deeper subtext here. Male bonding? A metaphor for life’s many choices and how we are all the time tossed in a sea of consequence? An attempt to recapture youth through youthful play? Nope. Catch. With a football. The love scenes are tasteful and have that blurry dream-like feel found in the better softcore adult movies Cinemax shows after nine o’clock minus any attempt at passion. The scenes between Mark and Lisa have some heat but only to dramatize her turning from Tommy to his best friend.
So what makes “The Room” a cult classic? It’s so bad it’s good. As self-indulgent as it gets, there’s an odd heart to the movie. It’s quirky narrative is highly quotable. The characters deserve mockery but at the same time become iconic examples of two-dimensional archetypes. Tommy himself is a non-stop candy store of “what the fuck” wrapped in a leather jacket and bad perm. The repeating images of spoons. It just defies all common logic and that is what draws us into the vortex. We become trapped in “The Room” with them.
I have a theory: this is Tommy’s personal Hell. He’s reliving the events leading up to his death again and again in a perpetual cycle of repeated actions and memories. The off-center pacing is because Tommy’s soul is no longer bound by physical laws governing time and space. He only remembers those most important to him as projections, very similar to the main character in Solaris. The moments when Tommy is not present are extrapolations based on assumption of what may or may not have happened. The Room is his cell and we are the voyeuristic demons watching his torment.
Or it’s just a really really bad movie. You decide.