When I did a blog theme month for Hilariously Bad Movies last year, the hardest movie to keep off of my list was The Room. Why not start this year’s Bad Movie month with it instead? Also, as with last year, my intention is to look at a different decade for each movie I feature this month. Next week I’ll be looking at a movie based on a video game from the 90s, and that’s the only hint you’re getting ahead of time. It’s also the kind of movie that not everyone would find hilarious, but that’s part of the fun of theme months like this. Everyone has different tastes as to what bad movies they find hilarious. That is, if you can find bad movies hilarious. That said, The Room may be the most famous and widely enjoyed Hilariously Bad Movie released since the turn of the millennium.
Just a heads up, this is going to be one of those blog posts where I talk more about the movie’s creation and cult following than the movie itself. The clips do a much better job at showcasing the movie than writing about it ever could.
Before talking about the movie itself, let’s talk about its star/director/creator, Tommy Wiseau. Even now, 20 years after The Room released, he’s a mystery. He’s been secretive about his early life. Sometimes he claims to have lived in France “a long time ago”, while also claiming to have grown up in New Orleans, having an entire family in nearby Chalmette, Louisiana. He said he was born at some point in the late 60’s, but his co-star and friend, Greg Sestero, claims that he was born earlier than that, and somewhere in the Eastern Bloc (countries under Soviet rule). After another longtime associate, Rick Harper, said that Wiseau is originally from Poland, in 1955, Wiseau confirmed for the first time that he was originally from Europe.
“Long story short, I grew up in Europe a long time ago, but I’m American and very proud of it.”
There are other unverified claims Wiseau’s made about his past, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that he moved to the United States, worked a variety of jobs, yet somehow becoming independently wealthy. There are rumors that there was some sort of money laundering scheme involved, but Sestero considers that to be very unlikely. Considering they’ve been friends for a long time, I’d sooner take his word for it than the rumors. Regardless, Wiseau was hospitalized for several weeks after a near-fatal car crash when another driver ran a red light. Sestero suggests that this experience led Wiseau to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor and director.
Wiseau took acting classes, and spent over a decade trying to break into the industry, taking both film classes and acting classes. His biggest influences include movies like The Guns of Navarone and Citizen Kane. Actors like James Dean, Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor are among his favourites.
Finally, after years of trying and failing to get into the industry, he went ahead with his own film, The Room. It features a budget of $6 million, to which its financing is still a mystery. It’s based on an unpublished novel written by Wiseau himself. The movie was immediately lambasted by critics when it released, and its initial theatrical release earned a total of $1,916. That would have made it a massive bomb, but it’s since become a massive “cult classic”. The Room enjoys regular late night showings, fans dressing up as their favourite characters, and even Wiseau making appearances at some of these showings. The movie even enjoyed an international tour in 2010-2011 called “Love is Blind”, in which several of the cast members regularly attended the screenings.
The making of The Room was a complete mess. Wiseau claimed that the $6 million budget was mostly due to needing to frequently recast characters, as the movie’s cast had a bit of a revolving door. There were other reasons for the expenses though, including a number of poor decisions made during the filming process. Wiseau bought all of the film equipment instead of renting it. He built sets based on the locations, when location filming would have worked just as well. He frequently forgot lines and placements, sometimes resulting in minute-long dialogue sequences taking days to shoot.
They even had two different sets of cameras, digital HD cameras and 35mm film cameras. The difference confused Wiseau, so they filmed the movie simultaneously in both formats. He wanted to be the first director ever to do so. After all that, the final cut only features the 35mm footage.
At one point, Wiseau submitted the film to Paramount Pictures. Normally it would take a couple of weeks to hear back, but the film was rejected within 24 hours. Instead of trying to bring in any other studios, he released it independently, with only one billboard, a handful of TV commercials, and newspaper ads throughout Los Angeles to advertise it. The billboard stayed up for 5 years, costing Wiseau $5,000 a month. It became a tourist attraction of sorts over time.
Most of the casting choices were based on head shots, and most of the cast had never been involved in a feature film before. Sestero had limited experience himself, but he agreed to help out the production crew. They were already good friends at this point, so he did it as a favour. He also agreed to play the role of Mark after the original actor was fired on the first day. The actress for Lisa, Juliette Danielle, was also a replacement after the first actress quit. According to Danielle, the original actress also had a strong accent, and was most likely from South America. Danielle was originally cast as a minor character, Michelle.
Another actor, Kyle Vogt (who played Peter) was originally supposed to have a major role in the film’s climax, but not all of his scenes were finished by the time he was unavailable, due to other commitments. As a result, he was replaced on-screen by another character, who was never properly introduced or explained.
To sum it up, Wiseau plays Johnny, a successful banker. Danielle plays Lisa, Johnny’s cheating fiancée. Sestero plays Mark, Johnny’s best friend, who is also boning Lisa. Phillip Haldiman plays Denny, a young college student, who is supported by Johnny almost like a son. Carolyn Minnott is Lisa’s mother. Robyn Paris plays Michelle, Lisa’s best friend and advisor. Scott Holmes plays Mike, Michelle’s boyfriend. Vogt plays Peter, a psychologist who is both Johnny and Mark’s friend. Greg Ellery plays Steven, the unexplained friend who takes over after Vogt had to leave the set.
Last but not least, Dan Janjigian plays a drug dealer who has exactly one scene. He’s actually a former Olympic bobsledder, who competed in the 2002 Salt Lake City games representing Armenia. That right there covers all of the named characters in the movie.
The Room truly needs to be seen to be believed. Everything about Wiseau’s acting is awkward, from the timing of his delivery, to his mysterious accent, all the way to his drastic emotional swings from exaggerating being upset to suddenly underacting. The dialogue is repetitive and always feels unnatural. Sestero and Danielle appear to have some actual acting talents, but it’s pretty much impossible to make the script work. Denny comes across as unintentionally creepy at times. Lisa’s mother is all over the place as a character, from being aggressive and overbearing towards people she barely knows, to talking about having breast cancer with no emotion whatsoever.
The film features very few scenes outside of Johnny’s apartment, and the apartment seems to have people coming and going so regularly you’d think it’s a public meeting space rather than someone’s private home. There’s even a scene where Michelle and her boyfriend start making out on Johnny’s couch, before Lisa and her mother walk in on them. There’s one scene that takes place in a flower shop that feels like it’s edited out of sequence.
What is supposed to be a fairly dramatic romance, with a tragic ending, ends up being so surreal, you can’t take the drama seriously. It almost feels like an intentional parody of a tragic romance at times, yet Wiseau, Sestero and Danielle are clearly trying to take it seriously. Trying to dissect this movie further isn’t worth it. The clips throughout this blog post speak for themselves.
It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a fair amount of nudity in this movie, to the point where the first half almost feels like a softcore porn. Then again, the characters’ body positions are so awkward that if anything, there would only be bellybutton penetration. That and Sestero felt really awkward about filming those scenes, so he refused to take his jeans off. Basically, all of his “love” scenes just amounted to necking.
The Room belongs in the hall of fame of hilariously disastrous movies, and it’s a reputation that Wiseau himself has fully embraced at this point. He has personally attended a number of The Room’s showings. There’s also a webseries released in 2014, called The Room Actors: Where are they Now? A Mockumentary. There are a number of references in popular culture, from April Fool’s jokes on Adult Swim, to a joke in Spider-Man/Deadpool 12 where Captain Marvel is given a copy of The Room by Deadpool, instead of Room (a drama featuring Captain Marvel actress Brie Larson). The Rifftrax episode about The Room has received its own theatrical tour.
Most importantly, Sestero’s memoir on the making of The Room, The Disaster Artist, became a 2017 film. That film, starring James Franco (Spider-Man trilogy) as Wiseau, was successful in its own right. Wiseau personally approved of the film, and even cameoed in it. He and Franco became real-life friends in the process of making the biographical comedy. In the meantime, Sestero has a moderately successful film career, with cameos in a number of movies from Accepted to, well … Disaster Artist. He also wrote, directed and starred in Best F(r)iends, which also co-stars Wiseau. Although that movie received mixed reviews, it apparently uses Wiseau’s strange mannerisms in a way that actually works, while providing a fairly decent dramatic story about two close friends. While far from a masterpiece, it’s definitely worth checking out for fans of The Room. It makes for a great argument for the idea that “there’s no such thing as a bad actor … only actors being used badly”, according to the A.V. Club’s review.
If you’re into hilariously bad movies, this one is an easy recommendation. It’s got all the elements of a hilariously bad movie, from the awkward acting and script, to a story that falls apart more and more when you start to analyze it. If the clips look like they’re too much for you, I would at least recommend The Disaster Artist, which is actually a very good movie that also showcases The Room in its full hilariously bad glory.
LOL some movies are so bad they are too good to miss, other like The Room are so hilariously awful you are left totally gobsmacked by it all. Not a film I’d ever want to see again tbh, but full marks for delving into the making of this movie!
I’ve enjoyed watching bad movies for at least 17 years now, and even then, I need to be in the right mood to watch The Room. I’m not in that mood very often.
A lot of the time though, the behind the scenes stories for these movies are more entertaining than the movie itself.
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What an iconic movie. I haven’t actually seen it in full but it was so known for how bad it was that my friends and I saw most of the key scenes throughout high school. I was so surprised when they released The Disaster Artist not too long ago. I’ll have to find time to properly watch The Room someday though. That tidbit on billboards in LA is insane. I’m curious about the 90s video game movie. I’m just gonna say it’s Mortal Kombat (1995) for the fun of it. 😀
Mortal Kombat isn’t nearly bad enough to be considered hilariously bad. It’s at least passable, even if it’s dumb fun. Its sequel on the other hand … wow.
Also, yeah, that billboard cost more per month, for the 5 years it was up, than the movie made in its initial run. Pretty sure it’s become very profitable since it became famous.
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