I know this is really old news to many of you, but last weekend I watched Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room” for the first time, and I highly, highly recommend you watch it, well highly. Get a few good friends together, be conservative about how much you smoke (seriously, too much and the film would just be too much), and have a good couple hundred laughs and seriously confused moments (and avoid the plot elements of the below descriptions if you want it to be a totally organic experience… I went into it knowing nothing and it was well worth it).
The Room (film)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Room (2003) is an independent film written, produced, and directed and executive produced by Tommy Wiseau. It is the melodramatic story of a love triangle between a man, his fiancée, and his best friend. The principal cast includes Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero, Philip Haldiman, Carolyn Minnott, and Robyn Paris. Without any studio support, Wiseau spent over $6 million on production and marketing for the film. After a brief run in Los Angeles, the film went on to develop a cult following in the city, because of its perceived unintentional humor. It continues to have monthly midnight screenings. Wiseau promotes the film as a black comedy and insists that the “unintentional” humor is intentional, although audience members generally doubt this.
On April 1, 2009, the movie aired on Adult Swim at midnight and 2:30am EDT as the channel’s annual April Fool’s joke.
The Room is the story of a love triangle between a kind-hearted man named Johnny (Wiseau), his fiancée Lisa (Danielle), and his best friend Mark (Sestero).
At the beginning of the film, Lisa has become dissatisfied with Johnny, confiding to her best friend Michelle (Paris) and her mother Claudette (Minnott) that she finds him boring. Lisa seduces Mark, and they begin an affair that continues throughout the film, even as Mark more than once tries to break it off.
Lisa stays with Johnny because he is a successful banker who has promised to buy her a house. As the wedding date approaches and Johnny’s clout at his bank slips, Lisa gets closer to leaving Johnny for Mark.
The film has several subplots involving secondary characters. A neighboring college student named Denny (Haldiman) — whom Johnny supports and loves like a son — has a mysterious run-in with a drug dealer and struggles with his attraction to Lisa; Claudette, Lisa’s mother, deals with real estate problems, failed relationships, and breast cancer (although she nonchalantly announces she has this condition near the beginning of the film, it’s never mentioned again); Michelle’s boyfriend Mike (Mike Holmes) is shamed by Lisa and Claudette walking in on him making out with Michelle in Johnny and Lisa’s living room.
When Lisa throws Johnny a surprise birthday party, she flaunts her affair in front of Johnny, and Johnny and Mark get into not one but two altercations. Johnny has also attached a tape recorder to the telephone, recording an intimate call between his fiancée and Mark. Claiming that he doesn’t have a friend in the world, Johnny locks himself in his bathroom until everyone has left. When he comes out, he destroys his apartment, finds the handgun he took from Denny’s drug dealer Chris-R, and commits suicide with a gunshot to the head.
Lisa and Mark discover Johnny’s corpse soon afterwards, and Denny is not far behind. Mark blames Johnny’s death on Lisa. Denny blames Johnny’s death on Lisa and Mark, urging them to leave him alone with the corpse, but as the film closes, Lisa and Mark remain with Denny as police sirens grow louder.
The Room began as a play and a novel by Tommy Wiseau, which he wanted to turn into a film. He tried to get his idea made within the Hollywood system, but he did not succeed, so he wrote the script himself and spent five years developing and fundraising the project independently until he could shoot it himself. The original script was actually much longer than the shooting script and contained numerous wordy monologues and more irrelevant information. The script was heavily edited on set by the script supervisor and the actors.
In pre-production, Wiseau had to decide upon the shooting format of the film. He was confused about the differences between 35 mm film and high-definition video, so he decided to shoot the entire film in both formats with two cameras side-by-side on the same mount. This experiment allowed Wiseau to compare the formats on a large scale, and he plans to use the information that he gathered for a DVD documentary and a book.
Principal photography lasted eight months. It was mainly shot in Los Angeles, but some second-unit shooting was done in San Francisco where the film is set. The film employed over 400 people, and Wiseau is credited as an actor (in the leading role of Johnny), an executive producer, the writer, the producer, and the director.
The film cost $6 million to produce and market.
Distribution and marketing
In June 2003, The Room debuted with a two-week run at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 Theater on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. Wiseau’s production company Wiseau-Films has been responsible for distributing and marketing The Room, which until early 2009, had given the film little theatrical exposure outside of Los Angeles. A billboard for The Room was a fixture on Highland Avenue in Los Angeles from the time it first opened to when it was taken down in the fall of 2008. It is partially visible in episode 323 of The Hills, in an establishing shot of LA.
Originally, the film’s marketing materials included phrases like “A film with the passion of Tennessee Williams…” As it gained notoriety as a laughably bad film, the line “Experience this quirky new black comedy, it’s a riot!” was added.
The Room has also screened in New York City, Miami, Oakland, and Las Vegas. It won the Audience Award at the 2004 New York International Independent Film and Video Festival.
In December 2005, The Room was released for purchase on DVD. It is available for rental only at select video rental shops via direct distribution from Wiseau-Films.
The Room received its television debut on [adult swim] at 12:00 a.m. ET on April 1, 2009, serving as the network’s annual April Fools Day joke.
Critical reception and cult following
Variety reported it was “a self-distributed directorial debut so hopelessly amateurish that auds reportedly walked out during its two-week run in July 2003”.
Many people who watch The Room immediately respond to how unintentionally funny it appears to be. According to many Room fans, the quality of the writing, acting, cinematography, set design, and editing all indicate that the film is a vanity piece gone awry – and to the extent of hilarity.
On the last Saturday of every month, there is a midnight (11:55pm, Saturday night) screening at Sunset 5 Theater, where a cult following of about one hundred loyal fans go to interact with the film in a similar fashion to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Audience members dress up as their favorite characters, throw plastic spoons at the movie screen, toss footballs to each other from short distances, and yell insulting comments and criticisms about the quality of the film.
Wiseau attends many of the midnight screenings, selling t-shirts, DVDs, and film soundtracks to fans. Before the film begins, he engages the audience with a Q&A session. During the film, he encourages audience participation during screenings, and he claims that he does not get upset about the comments that audience members make. In an interview on the DVD for The Room, Wiseau said, “I’m happy, because I prepared all this stuff, and I wanted people to have a good time […] When you see The Room, you can yell, you can scream, you can express yourself – that’s the idea.”
Since 2007 the film has screened bi-monthly in Montreal’s Centre-Sud neighborhood, at the JC Memorial Theatre and Recreation Centre. There is no admission, and following the screening refreshments are served as viewers are led in a round-robin discussion.
The Room was also shown at Chandler Cinemas, an independent theater in Chandler, Arizona, on March 27, 2009. The screening featured a Q&A session with Philip Haldiman, who now lives in the Phoenix area. The theater plans to show The Room again.
The Room is not yet available theatrically or on DVD in the rest of the world, although Wiseau plans to dub it into French and German.
Wiseau appeared on the March 21, 2009 edition of Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld to discuss the film. He maintained that it was intended as a comedy with various meanings and symbolism.
Though not mentioned by name, The Room was referenced on the television show Veronica Mars in the episode “Un-American Graffiti.” While walking the hall and tossing a football back and forth, Piz describes the film to Wallace, “It’s like the new Rocky Horror. Now at one point, people throw plastic spoons at the screen…you have to check it out. It’ll…it’ll change your life.”
Additionally, on the January 30th, 2009 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, Veronica Mars actress Kristen Bell (appearing to promote the film Fanboys) mentioned The Room at length and its cult following; host Jimmy Kimmel even held up a DVD copy of The Room during the conversation.
Wiseau made an appearance on Adult Swim’s sketch comedy show Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! in the episode “Tommy”, on March 8, 2009. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, the titular duo, regularly attend screenings of The Room. The film then aired on Adult Swim as its annual April Fool’s Day joke on April 1, 2009 at midnight, followed by the Tim & Eric episode Tommy – other programming ran as scheduled. As usual for its April Fools Joke, Adult Swim gave TV Guide the wrong information. Adult Swim rated The Room TV-14-DLSV, and scenes not appropriate for basic cable were edited out or partially or entirely covered with black boxes. At random times, the phrase “Do not duplicate this copyrighted material” appeared at the bottom of the screen, and the bumps, which appear before and after the commercial breaks, either advertised the R-rated DVD or asked “What are you fools watching?” The day following the broadcast, the movie placed as high as #28 on the Amazon.com DVD best-seller list, as well as moving to #1 amongst independent films on the site.