By his best estimate, my friend, we’ll call him Richard, has watched the cult classic film “The Room” about 17 or 18 times.
It’s a level of obsession that’s hard for me to fathom. I think I’ve seen “Shrek” seven times, but there’s a 80% chance that I’m just making that number up for this column.
Richard can recite whole sequences of dialogue from memory, has intricately examined foibles in the film’s camera work and has developed detailed backstories about the characters.
Richard’s obsession is so vast and all-consuming that I’ve been sucked into it like a meteor falling into the gravitational pull of a particularly large planetary body. I’m not complaining.
“The Room” is a cornerstone of our friendship. It’s an awful movie, but its awfulness is endearing and worth treasuring.
Plot lines fade in and out of existence, dialogue is choppy and grammatically incoherent, and in some scenes, the lighting has a faint greenish tinge that makes it look like characters have developed an ever-so-slight case of jaundice, an unintentional visual motif that is especially clear in the movie’s BluRay release.
They also film several rooftop scenes on a green screen set rather than, you know, on an actual rooftop, which I have to assume would have been cheaper.
I would estimate that 99% of the bad decisions made in this movie can be traced back to its writer, director, producer and leading man, Tommy Wiseau.
(Most of the information in this article pertaining to Wiseau and “The Room” comes from a book one of his co-stars, Greg Sestero, wrote called “The Disaster Artist.” It’s a good little book, and I highly recommend that you read it when you get the chance.)
Before making a name for himself with “The Room,” Wiseau desperately wanted to be a movie star. He revered James Dean, took acting classes, filmed an acting reel and posed for a series of professional head shots.
It didn’t work, and when you see him act, it makes sense. In “The Room,” Wiseau oscillates between rabid, histrionic yelling and deadpan, expressionless recitation. There’s no middle ground.
After trying and failing for years to break into the industry as an actor, Wiseau decided to make his own movie. He wrote a script, which was originally going to be a play, and paid millions of dollars (the source of which is still a popular topic of debate) to hire a crew, actors and purchase his own camera equipment.
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Whenever Richard and I hang out, we spend about 60% of our time trying to recreate the precise pronunciation and cadence of certain lines of dialogue that Wiseau recites in the movie.
“Denny, don’t worry about it. Lisa loves you, too. As a person, as a human BEAN, as a friend.”
Richard and I listened to the movie’s entire soundtrack during a recent trip to Asheville, and there are whole text chains between two of us that are just a series of all-caps quotes from “The Room.”
“HOW CAN YOU LOVE HIM???” “YOU BASS-TURD!”
I recently moved back to Johnson City after spending about two years in Asheville. I grew up in Kingsport and went to college at East Tennessee State University, but even though I’m familiar with this area, the adjustment has felt a little jarring.
I didn’t expect it, but “The Room” has been helpful. It’s a familiar touchstone that makes me laugh when I think about it.
I’m not sure if that was Tommy’s original intention (I doubt it), but it’s something that I and hundreds of other fans of the movie cherish.