by Jonathan

Bad movies come in many forms. We have the over-hyped but under-delivered ones like the Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, the cheesy ones like the 1994 Street Fighter movie and the dreadful live-action adaptation of Riki-Oh.

Then you have the bad films that transcend human comprehension, like The Room. This 2003 romance drama takes the top prize of a “so bad it’s good” movie experience, so much so that there are fan clubs dedicated to it and special screenings for the film as an annual event. There’s even a James Franco-directed autobiographical film (starring his brother, Dave Franco) about its writer/producer/director Tommy Wiseau (“Wih-Soh”) called The Disaster Artist, based on the written memoirs of one of the film’s main actors, Greg Sestero.

So we have to ask ourselves: what makes The Room such a fascinating piece of cinema-making history? We break it down into three distinct points.

1. Its Intention & Delivery

The Room was titled as such because according to Tommy Wiseau, the main set piece is the room and was the central hub for both the good and bad events in main character Johnny’s life. The main story is basically a love triangle between Wiseau’s Johnny, Greg Sestero’s Mark, and Juliette Danielle’s Lisa. Johnny is a banker who is engaged to Lisa, but she likes to fool around with Mark because well, she’s not really a nice human being. Cue drama and conflict from this typical scenario.

With a good script and good acting, the film would have been a passable and competent drama done “on the cheap”. Instead, we get horrendous acting, unconventional cuts and transitions and inconsistent narrative flow. Serious dramatic moments end up as punchlines, while cries of anger are instead torrents of overacting that can rival William Shatner’s delivery from the 60s.

There were additional dialogue recordings and multiple takes for its pivotal scenes, particularly for Wiseau’s parts. Danielle had to do a sex scene with Wiseau, which was best described as awkward and uncomfortable. The scene where Johnny was angry over being accused of domestic abuse took a whopping 67 takes to get right. Even then, the final cut came off as cringe-worthy.


To make matters worse, the film itself cost US$6 million on production and marketing alone due to Wiseau’s poor decision-making. It also doesn’t help that he kept replacing actors and actresses. Perhaps the crew behind the production knew it was a stinker in the making and just did not gave a darn midway through production. Or perhaps Wiseau’s passion for doing movies and creating his first masterpiece clouded his judgment. Whichever the case, this was clearly the case of good intentions going completely off-the-rails execution-wise.

2. Wiseau Himself

Both Sestero and Danielle’s characters did not have much of an arc, and the actors themselves didn’t get much direction. Instead, they looked like they just rolled with the punches, faltering as main stars as a result. The real star of the show, however, is Wiseau’s Johnny. His delivery is akin to a space alien trying to learn human culture and interactions for the first time. Empathy and restraint are concepts new to this man, as far as the film is concerned.

He starts off most of his lines with a casual “Oh hi!” and laughs at the most inopportune times. Johnny’s child buddy entering and wishing to join a tryst between him and Lisa? He laughs it off. Mark tells him a cautionary tale about battered wives? He laughs that off too.

While he didn’t flesh out the other characters in the movie, Wiseau took pains to carve out his own character. In The Room’s twisted universe, Johnny is the nicest guy on the block and everyone goes to extreme lengths to let him know that, ranging from his friends, co-workers and even the florist.

In short, Tommy Wiseau is the face of The Room, and one major reason why people remember this film. I mean, look at the movie poster and DVD box art; that’s mascot material right there.

3. Its “Non-Sequitur”-ness

It’s one thing to have a few narrative inconsistencies; your big blockbuster films of 2017 alone have that in spades. But when you have brand new characters popping out of nowhere shaming Mark and Lisa for their infidelity out of the blue, you know you’re onto something special.

You have Lisa’s mother nonchalantly proclaiming that she has cancer, you have a side story of a kid dealing with a drug dealer that goes nowhere, and you have guys in suits playing football.

These bizarre choices of adding these scenes feel like as if audiences are peering into the mind of Wiseau, like as if part of this movie is his semi-autobiography or simply, random thoughts at that particular point in time.

In the end, it’s not just one element that stands out. Rather, it’s all three that work in tandem that has the moviephile and internet crowd up in stitches, thus earning it its “Citizen Kane of Bad Movies” title.

Come to think of it, we have to thank the digital age of broadband for the film’s online and offline presence. The Room could have just been another forgotten bad movie back in the early 90s. But its fans old and new who mostly mock it for their self-amusement made it a legendary piece of bad filmmaking that even caught the attention of the guy known for his stoner films.