Finding the theater packed with hipster millennials was my first hint that something was about to go terribly wrong. The fact that many of them seemed to know each other was an ominous sign. Then a clip of Tommy Wiseau doing a semi-coherent live question and answer session in front of a theater packed with adoring fans appeared on screen. Then a mashup video of what turned out to be some of the stupidest dialogue in the movie started playing, and the audience sang along. And then someone started passing out plastic spoons. I knew The Room had achieved something of a cult status, but nothing had prepared me for a theater full of millennials making a pathetically lame attempt to recreate The Rocky Horror Picture Show. More on that later.
The Room was released in 2003, and the numerous criticisms published since then vastly understate the magnitude of its awfulness. The basic idea is that Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) is a successful banker engaged to Lisa (Juliette Danielle). Depending on which section of dialogue you’re listening to, they’ve been together for 5 or 7 years. And no, 2 years do not pass over the course of the film. Lisa has inexplicably gotten bored with Johnny and decides to cheat on him with Mark (Greg Sestero). Mark is Johnny’s best friend. We know this because Johnny, Lisa, and Mark explicitly state this dozens of times. Johnny finds out multiple times and eventually decides to freak out about it.
There are numerous subplots that never get any kind of exploration, let along resolution. Lisa’s mother (Carolyn Minnott) states she is dying of breast cancer in a throwaway line early in the film, and it’s never mentioned again. Denny (Philip Haldiman), a disturbingly strange young man described as a surrogate son to Johnny, has a brief and almost fatal encounter with a drug dealer he owes money to, but nothing more comes of that. And that’s not even counting the numerous bizarre scenes that have no connection whatsoever to the rest of the film.
The dialogue is painful and the delivery even worse. The acting, if you can call it that, would be mocked in a 10-year-old’s YouTube video. In addition to starring in The Room, Wiseau wrote, directed, and produced it. It’s unclear if he simply hired the worst actors he could find or if his cast was deliberately aping or mocking his style. I’ve seen better writing, better dialogue, AND better acting in high school plays. The production values were just as bad, with some of the most horrendously terrible green screen work since Falco’s “Der Kommissar.” Suffice it to say that virtually every creative decision in this film was a bad idea at best and a disaster at worst.
As awful as The Room was, enduring a theater-full of hipsters who were not nearly as clever as they thought they were yelling at the screen was even worse. I’ve been to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I’ve seen shadow casts, I’ve been stuck in a room full of nerds who think reciting every line of Monty Python and the Holy Grail along with the movie is the height of wit, and I’ve been in a room full of friends in various states of intoxication hurling comments at a movie. What I experienced in The Room was without a doubt the weakest attempt at audience participation I have ever suffered through. In the entire 99-minute run time, the cackling audience managed to come up with a grand total of 3 comments that were actually clever. Come on, people, this movie has been out for over 14 years. Are those painfully lame gags really the best you can collectively come up with after more than a decade?
The Room would have rated a solid 1 on its own merits, but the miserable excuse for audience interaction has forced me to excavate a new sub-basement under what had been the floor of my rating scale. I’m not giving it a zero solely because of the remote possibility that someday, somewhere, I might be unfortunate enough to experience something even worse.
Overall rating 0.25/10