As part of the promotion for his new film Best F(r)iends, Tommy Wiseau, known for his 2003 film The Room, made a public appearance at a midnight screening for The Room in Philadelphia. I, eager to see a film that was infamously labeled as one of the worst movies ever by critics during its release, decided to attend the midnight screening unaware of what experiences Wiseau and his fans would offer me.
To my surprise, when I arrived thirty minutes before the screening, the theater had a large line of people awaiting entry. That line only increased over time as groups of people arrived at the movie theater, some carrying footballs and plastic spoons in hand, which I later found out were references to the film used as part of its cult status. As I awaited entry, I overheard people recounting their favorite parts of the film and their excitement to see Wiseau.
The Q&A before the event was an unreal spectacle as I was greeted with a table that contained merchandise, such as the film’s script, DVD and Blu-Ray copies, t-shirts, and even Tommy Wiseau branded underwear. Next to the table, in a designated area for signing merchandise and photography, was Wiseau. After buying a copy of the script, I managed to get it signed and have my photo taken with Mr. Wiseau, and I admit that I was starstruck upon meeting him.
Upon entering the theater, the audience members were subjected to numerous commercials that tried to entice viewers to buy other merchandise that were connected to the film. When Mr. Wiseau entered the theater for the Q&A, he was met with an uproar of applause by the audience. Following the screening of the trailer for his new film, audience members, myself included, had the opportunity to ask Mr. Wiseau questions about The Room and his career following it. When I asked him if his perception of The Room has changed 15 years later, Wiseau said,
“No, nothing has changed. It was a fun movie, it’s just too bad that some people [misread] me. I learned from my acting teacher, Jean Shelton, that [it’s about] the audience, Hollywood is very tricky, so we did something different, as you now know. You guys enjoy the movie and I love you all.”
Though the experience I had was entertaining and hilarious, the film itself, unfortunately, was awful. The Room centers around Johnny, played by Wiseau, who will marry Lisa. She is financially dependent on Johnny, but she has fallen out of love with him and had an affair with his best friend Mark, played by Greg Sestero. The film has been criticized for its acting, screenplay, dialogue, production values, score, direction, and cinematography. The film itself faced numerous issues during its production, including rewrites of the script, actors walking off set, and damages to sets, all of which are mentioned in a book by Sestero titled The Disaster Artist. I had issues with the film’s overall execution, particularly its acting, cinematography, direction, and script. I felt more like a parody of the drama and romance genres than belonging in them. There were many instances where the acting was wooden or over the top, giving off different emotions than the plotpoint, and the dialogue was incoherent. Granted, there were some good scenes, particularly with the role of the fiancee’s mother, but that is overshadowed by the iconic “You’re tearing me apart Lisa” line Wiseau’s character delivers.
The cinematography was very questionable, as the film not only displayed visuals that added nothing to the story, but were often out of focus. One response I heard a lot in the theater, as part of The Room’s cult following, was the audience yell “focus” every time the visuals became blurred. There were also scenes on the roof where the background is completely blurred, making me feel like the movie was shot on a green screen rather than a roof in San Francisco. There were also questionable visual choices as the film included three instances of the camera following the bridge, to which the audience chanted “Go” repeatedly followed by a cheer or disappointment whether or not the camera captured the entire bridge. There were also instances of the same scene being used multiple times in the movie, furthering my disappointment in the waste of the visuals. Considering the fact that Wiseau had a camera set-up that required two full crews to operate, I felt the visuals needed to be run through the editing phase again.
The directing and screenplay by Wiseau were difficult to follow, with the main story often getting lost in unnecessary visuals of the San Francisco area and underdeveloped characters and subplots. There are pieces of information that come up and are never again mentioned, such as the mother having cancer. A multitude of characters that are brought in without a proper backstory that supposedly know some of the main characters. Two such examples are Chris R., who is part of a subplot in which the character Denny owes him drug money, and the main character Mark, who has an affair with the fiancee of Wiseau’s character Johnny. The script itself, which I later read through, was also incoherent and poorly written. The main plot got lost in numerous subplots and lengthy sex scenes, during which some audience members purposefully left the theater as part of the behavior for its cult followers. It was also very detering to have one of the previews before the film indicate to the audience that there was a script made for the movie followed by numerous photos as proof, partly due to the criticism about the film’s script upon initial release.
Despite the questionable story and uneasiness I felt while watching the film, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience in regards to the real reason I attended the midnight screening, which is its cult status and dedicated fans. I thoroughly laughed at seeing hundreds of plastic spoons being thrown by audience members at the screen every time a spoon appeared on screen, which occurred often, and at a football being thrown amongst the audience whenever one was thrown in the film. The aforementioned chanting by the audience was prevalent throughout, including one scene where the character Denny eats an apple for no apparent reason, and people in the audience shouted, “It’s a metaphor!” Overall, it was the audience’s comments and actions done during the film that made me enjoy the experience.
Though I would not advise watching The Room for a film class or by yourself for entertainment, I would highly recommend watching it at a Midnight premiere or with some of the film’s cult followers because watching this film as a cult film made it a memorable and worthwhile experience. After thoroughly enjoying this experience, I would see Wiseau’s new film, but I would hold off until it has amassed a following and culture similar to The Room.