I put off seeing The Room for a long time. Some friends told me it was so terrible that it was good, and me, being a real smartypants, thought I knew what they meant by that, and ignored their requests that I join them for midnight screenings at the Music Box (some of them featuring appearances by writer/director/producer/star Tommy Wiseau). This was in 2008 or 2009 or so.
Then, some time after that, my friend Justin, over one of the holidays, sat me down in front of his laptop and made me watch the thing with him. (He couldn’t believe that I hadn’t yet seen it.) And I was, as so many others have been, immediately captivated. (Since which time I’ve seen it numerous times, including once at midnight at the Music Box. Tommy Wiseau was supposed to show up, but he cancelled.)
My friends were mistaken in one thing: The Room is not “so terrible that it’s good.” The Room isn’t terrible. It’s also not good. It exists beyond labels like “good” and “terrible,” in some other realm, possibly the realm of outsider art. You can see that Tommy Wiseau wanted to make a film, that he was able to amass many of the tools that people traditionally use when making films—but he used them to assemble something other than a film. It looks a lot like a film, to be sure. You can watch it, and should. But it is something very other.
Luckily, that thing, whatever it may be, is bewilderingly adorable.
The Room (2003)
Produced, written by, directed by, and starring Tommy Wiseau
What I like best about The Room—besides how inscrutable it is, and how inscrutable it remains even after numerous viewings—is its nature, which is warmhearted and good. Everyone involved is clearly having fun, and I believe Tommy Wiseau when he says that more than anything he wanted to make something that people would enjoy, in whatever way they wanted. He and the actors he’s assembled are, in every scene, a total joy to watch, regardless of whatever it is they are doing (I’m not sure it’s “acting”). The whole thing is consistently charming, is basically what I’m saying—and that’s not nothing. It’s more than lots of other “actual” movies will give you.
Note that this isn’t the highest quality copy, but I’m glad there’s one online—and if you haven’t seen it yet, maybe this will convince you to seek out a real copy, or download the RiffTrax track for it, and—who knows?—maybe even attend a midnight screening. The best way to experience The Room is in the company of other people! Bring a football and plastic silverware.