Thursday, March 1, 2018

Bad Movie of the Month: The Room

I may not be devoting all of my time and effort to covering bad movies these days, but that doesn’t mean I stopped loving them. So once a month, I’ll spread a little bit of that love…

Oscar season is upon us. That’s a big deal for a lot of people, but not me: I officially gave up on the Oscars the year they refused to even nominate The Lego Movie for a much deserved Best Animated Feature award. Still, the Oscar-ness is inescapable and I often pick up bits of news without even trying.

One bit of news that I found amusing: Oscar talk for The Disaster Artist

If you haven’t heard of The Disaster Artist, it’s based on the book by Greg Sestero detailing his experience on the production of modern cult classic The Room and with the writer/director/product/star Tommy Wiseau, a truly unique individual if ever there was one. On one hand, I get why the Academy would eat this up: It’s a movie about underdogs making a movie. On the other hand, it’s about The Room, which is really only a movie by definition. I haven’t seen The Disaster Artist yet thanks to living in the middle of nowhere, but I’ve read the book (great) and have had the singular experience of watching The Room.

There are plenty of films with bad reputations, and it seems that just about every year another film gets rolled out as the Worst Thing Ever. As a reviewer of bad movies, I quickly learned to take these kind of things with a big ol’ lump of salt. But when it came to The Room, one of the most hyped bad movies in a generation? No salt necessary. Like a velvet Elvis or a well-timed zinger, The Room is a thing of beauty.

The film opens with the swelling sounds of the Oscar Bait Orchestra. Johnny (Wiseau) and his Rockin' Strands of Artisan Hair have just come home after a long day at the office. In his strange, possibly made-up accent that sounds like Jean-Claude Van Damme bit his tongue, Johnny surprises his "future wife" Lisa with some lingerie. Lisa, with all the grace of a drunken moose, says that she's going to try it on right now, and where's the porn groove?

The movie is certainly heading in that direction when Denny, the Eddie Haskel of our story, waltzes in sitcom-style. "Oh, hia Denny," Johnny says, non-pulsed by the fact that his lovin' was just interrupted by the neighbor kid. I keep waiting for a laugh track, but it never comes.

After chiding Denny for wanting to watch (!), our two lovebirds eventually do start to get it on, and suddenly we're in a Keith Sweat video: the slow jam is jammin', rain is pouring down the window pane and there's white satin and rose petals everywhere. It is unquestionably the cheesiest sex scene I've ever seen. It carries on far too long, and the fact that it ends with Johnny mounting Lisa and making sweet, pumpy love to her bellybutton is just icing on the cake.

Just in case you didn't get enough of that sex scene, shots of it are edited into later love scenes.
So it seems that everything is cool in Johnny's world... or is it? Because only a scene or two later, Lisa is lamenting to her mother (cast straight out of Sitcom Purgatory) that she's sick of Johnny and wants to leave him. This revelation, like many others throughout the film, comes absolutely out of nowhere. At least this one actually drives the story along. Later revelations like the fact that Lisa's mom “definitely” has breast cancer are mentioned once and promptly forgotten about.

Turns out that Lisa isn't too crazy about her mom, either. In a priceless bit of dialogue, Lisa complains:

[My mom] wants to control my life. I'm not going to put up with it. I'm going to do what I want to do, and that's it. What do you think I should do?

Lisa opts to seduce Johnny's best friend, Mark (Sestero), and comes on to him with all the subtlety of a kick in the nuts. Mark protests, but it doesn't take long for them to start slow jammin' on the staircase.

From this point on, the plot becomes unstuck in time. Johnny states his overall happiness in life with such odd, ironic statements as “I’m so happy I have you as my best friend, and I love Lisa so much.” Lisa continues her Jekyll/Hyde routine. Mark laments the fact that he’s carrying on with his best friend’s girl, pausing long enough to shag Lisa and make a few random Hyde turns of his own. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Nearly all of the action takes place in Johnny and Lisa’s apartment (“The Room,” I suppose), with a few breaks in the action to go “throw the ol’ pigskin around” in an alley or to have a chat on the Roof of Heart-to-Heart Discussions. My favorite scene takes place on the roof: A ruffian is hassling Denny for money from some prior drug transaction, and all our main characters show up (or, in the case of Lisa and her mom, teleport in) for Big Exciting Drama. The scene achieves a level of cheese that most folks can’t imagine – it’s like a parody of an after-school special. 

My lone knock against this film is that because there’s only one way for this story to end, it feels like it takes forever to get to that moment. Until then, we’re in an endless loop of odd declarations, wild mood swings and slow jam grinding. Plot points come and go with little to no impact. Time lines are jumbled. Characters are introduced and promptly disappear while other characters who have not been introduced at all suddenly have key moments. 

In short, the film plays like a soap opera made entirely by people suffering from concussions. It’s a beautiful mess.

Congratulations, The Room! You are March 2018's Bad Movie of the Month.

1 comment:

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