On June 27 of 2003, a legend was born. Today marks the 18th anniversary of the release of Tommy Wiseau’s masterpiece, The Room. After a brief stint in oblivion as a flop, The Room would soon be resurrected as a cult classic. The book, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell would be published on October 10 of 2013 and elucidate the mysterious origins of the film. In 2017, James Franco would direct and star in a film version of The Disaster Artist. From the early days of the film’s release to present times, The Room has been promoted through fan-based events and rituals, and endless internet commentary. However, the film speaks best for itself.
Uninitiated fans might be wondering: What is The Room? Tom Bissell, co-author of The Disaster Artist, said it best in a Vox interview, “It is like a movie made by an alien who has never seen a movie, but has had movies thoroughly explained to him.” In other words, The Room is commonly regarded as the most magnificently terrible movie ever made. It is also known as the Citizen Kane of bad movies. The plot is fairly straight-forward. The protagonist, Johnny, is living the American Dream: He is successful in his career, has a beautiful fiancé, lots of friends (all of whom are much younger than him, oddly enough), and seems to be well-regarded and respected wherever he goes in his community. But this happy dream is wrecked by betrayal when Johnny’s fiancé, Lisa, decides to seduce his best friend Mark. The resulting movie is full of hilariously bad acting, stilted dialogue that is random and full of non sequiturs, and gaping plot holes and inconsistencies. It’s as if someone had to be purposely trying to make the movie as much of a hot mess as it is.
In order to understand the allure of The Room, it is perhaps most useful to meditate on the person of Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau has drawn attention as a man whose age, past, and source of immense wealth are shrouded in mystery. As revealed in The Disaster Artist (the book), Wiseau’s lifestyle and motives in creating The Room are similarly mysterious. Although Wiseau had hoped that The Room would be publicly received as a romantic tragedy (he had suggested that it was loosely auto-biographical), he has rolled with the unexpected outcome of The Room’s success as an object of comedy. Wiseau continues to enjoy the attention of fans and runs a surprisingly inspirational Twitter account.
So why do we love The Room so much? I suspect that because, in a way, Tommy Wiseau is all of us. He wants love, success, and lots of friends. He feels betrayed by the universe. He struggles with social awkwardness and trying to make others understand his artistic vision. In this sense, he’s a very typical guy. Unlike the typical guy, however, he possessed the perfect combination of courage and cultural tone-deafness to make his vision a reality. It’s just a theory of mine, but I think we humans enjoy making fun of the flaws in others that are most inexplicably recognizable in ourselves.
I think of one of the final scenes in the movie. Johnny is gathered with all his friends at a surprise birthday party held in his honor, at which he also gets to announce that he and Lisa are expecting a child. Such an event would be the epitome of happiness for most people. As such, the complete reversal of fortunes that Johnny suffers in the next hour are hilariously perfect in comparison. Not only is it revealed the Lisa was having an affair with Mark, but she was also lying about being pregnant. Furthermore, most of Johnny’s friends knew about the situation and no one told him. Everyone abandons Johnny, who commits suicide as a final act of revenge against God, mankind, and the universe. The horrifying cringe brought forth in the sequence of events is itself a work of art.
In conclusion, The Room has aged well as an endlessly meme-able and quote-able film. I will always be a fan and will never not find it funny. Take some time today to watch a few scenes and appreciate the joy of good bad movies.