I've sat through The Room more times than I've seen many more important films. It never gets old. That the story of its making has now been fictionalized in the acclaimed comedy The Disaster Artist (see our review on page 52) proves other people are as morbidly fascinated by it as I am.
Tommy Wiseau's 2003 film (pictured), which he wrote, directed and starred in, is generally regarded as one of the worst ever made, and it is really, truly, inarguably awful. But The Room is no ordinary shitty movie. Its incompetencies are all its own. There's a purity to its badness. It seems to have been beamed down from another universe entirely, one that has no other movies in it. As accidentally enthralling as it is unintentionally funny, it's a shoddily-made romantic drama that also serves as a glimpse inside the addled id of its creator.
I don't want to make watching it sound like some kind of academic exercise: You laugh at The Room for all of the obvious, Mystery Science Theater-esque reasons. Its sense of earnestness is wildly misplaced. The characters are hilariously inconsistent, changing motivations and temperaments at random. Whole scenes repeat themselves; subplots are introduced and then dropped instantly. The acting is wooden and the dialogue is basically gibberish. Its gender politics are so toxic they're cartoonish.
But what makes it stand apart is the wannabe genius at its helm. Like Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space before it, The Room has become shorthand for cinematic ineptitude, and yet it has been made with the conviction that it is very, very important. Great art is driven by a personal vision, and by the artist's need to express it. Wiseau has a vision, to be sure, but he has no idea how to get it up on the screen in a coherent fashion, or even what, exactly, he's trying to communicate.
That Wiseau would eventually backtrack and claim The Room was intended as comedy all along is proof that its status as a so-bad-it's-good cult curiosity wounded him. He doesn't want to appear as though he took it all seriously, but it's clear that Wiseau's only (so far) directorial feature was meant to announce the arrival of a major new filmmaker. That makes it all the more inexplicable.
Most bad movies are simply boring or lazy. The Room is alive with its own badness. ♦