Ten-plus years since its release, it's safe to say that "The Room", conceived, written, directed, and produced by lead actor Tommy Wiseau, has become a phenomenon. Making less in its initial release than your average paralegal rakes in on one paycheck--*after* taxes--The Room has become the Rocky Horror Picture Show of its generation, with midnight screenings and various rituals enacted by its fans. Numerous online critics, including the Nostalgia Critic, CinemaSins, and Obscurus Lupa, have had a merry time taking the movie apart--oh, sorry, *TEARING THE MOVIE APART, LISA!!!!* And yes, the movie is one of the movies that is truly so bad it's good. The script, and Wiseau's delivery of his lines, are guaranteed to make you smile for all the wrong reasons, so it qualifies as a guilty pleasure, too. And after seeing all the online hatchet jobs, I decided, "Hey, it's on YouTube, and for free--why not enjoy it again?" Unfortunately, by this time, the joke had worn off. Barely fifteen minutes into the movie, I was bored out of my mind. Camp comedy doesn't have a long shelf life in general, and when you outgrow it, you're left with the appalling mess that is The Room.
The problem, obviously, is Tommy Wiseau, wholly and entirely. The Room is his story--his baby, if you will. It flows completely out of his understanding of American culture and the human condition--and it fails because Wiseau's understanding of American culture and the human condition is utterly and completely superficial.
He knows, for example, that Americans in general love football, but he doesn't understand *why* we do, or that we put football aside when we have more pressing concerns (like a wedding). He knows that banks handle money, but he doesn't understand that an investment banker (which is what I'm presuming Johnny is, because I doubt very much he's a teller at your corner Citibank) is primarily in the business of *making* money, not just saving it. Johnny shouldn't be talking about how he saved the bank money; he should be talking about private placements and hedge funds. And so on and so on.
Wiseau shows a similar ignorance of human character and relationships. The oft-mocked breast cancer line is actually an opportunity for Wiseau to explore the concept of "like parent, like child"--if Lisa is manipulative and willing to tell outrageous lies to get what she wants, where's the most logical place for her to learn such behavior? This would also make Lisa's lack of reaction to the line more understandable. But Wiseau apparently doesn't have any grasp of the relationships between parents and their children; for all that he makes use of their relationship, Claudette and Lisa might as well be neighbors, co-workers, or perfect strangers rather than mother and daughter.
The result is a script that makes no sense whatsoever, because Wiseau started by ignoring the first rule of writing, "Write what you know", and proceeded to blow off the second rule, "If you don't know it, do your research." Compounding the problem is Wiseau's complete lack of understanding of script structure; like a bad Off-Off-Broadway play, subplots come out of nowhere with absolutely no setup (for example, the Chris-R scene) or start and are dropped without any development (for example, the breast cancer line).
Much has been made of the performances in The Room, but I will be blunt: if you could reach back in time and take great film actors to do the roles when they were the right ages to do so--say, a 1930s Laurence Olivier as Tommy, a 1970s Meryl Streep for Lisa, a 1960s Dustin Hoffman for Mark, etc.--they still wouldn't be able to do much with this script. The complete lack of depth means that none of the actors can give more than a surface performance, although a few--Robyn Paris and Carolyn Minnott, mostly--manage to at least make their characters somewhat interesting.
Still, it's a good laugh, right? And yes, it is--the first two or three times you see it. Afterwards, the joke doesn't have the same impact. What made you laugh hysterically the first time you saw the movie only makes you grin now, and what made you grin only makes you roll your eyes.
And eventually, the elephant in the room (no pun intended) makes itself known. This is about Tommy Wiseau. That's why the script gives Johnny absolutely no flaws: he's funny (so Wiseau thinks), generous (ditto), brave (not even armed drug dealers scare him!), philosophical, is everybody's friend, and everybody's "favorite customer". Wiseau, we realize, cannot afford to consciously give Johnny any warts to his character because that would undermine his own fragile self-esteem. And the amusement we feel at the joke of The Room turns into an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of our stomach, and a vague sense of guilt that we were laughing at this person in the first place.
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