Experiencing "The Citizen Kane of bad films" first hand

You are tearing me apart conventional movie expectations!
The Room, written, directed and starring Tommy Wiseau is a bit of an enigma. Is it an earnest attempt to make a decent movie ruined by serendipitously hilarious incompetence? Is it a winking self-conscious parody of the film making art? For that matter who or what is Tommy Wiseau and what planet is he from (a question asked in the film itself)? It’s a little hard to put one’s finger on.

Despite the contrived and repetitive plot, terrible acting and poorly realized characters; The Room has become a cult hit with bad-good movie fans spawning lively midnight screenings and even a fairly faithful flash tribute game. Screenings of the film have been compared to those of the Rocky Horror Picture Show - albeit with less tongue-in-cheek humour and dressing up – given the energy and anarchic experience that you get when you see The Room on the big screen. I was lucky enough to visit one such screening in London's Leicester Square and it was a cinema experience I won’t soon forget.

Literally everything that’s considered part of cinema etiquette is out the window. People throw plastic spoons (throwing metal ones will actually get you thrown out), people get up and wonder about, and shouting at the screen is encouraged as bad quote after bad quote plays out. It’s actually surprisingly liberating to just abandon all the rules we assume as law in the cinema but in a way that doesn’t involve acting like a thoughtless dick head. You really feel encouraged to join in with the fun and shout out of turn.

There are lots of favourite moments that get highlighted by the audience, in this the Citizen Kane of bad movies. There are screams of “who are you” every time a poorly established character is introduced; every time the door of the protagonist’s apartment is left inexplicably open there are shouts of “close the door”. There’s also a running count of how many times a football (American version not European) is thrown around by the characters, which is quite a lot and for no clear reason other than a vague male bonding metaphor. Spoons go flying every time a bizarre framed picture of a spoon appears in the background of some scenes (why this photo is part of the mise-en-scene has never been explained), accompanied by everyone screaming “SPOON!” for the duration of the shots.

Overall it’s a pretty unique experience and a damn funny one at that. There’s no doubt that the Room is either by intent or accident one of the most ham fisted attempts to make a movie of all time, but somehow a group of fans have managed to make something of the resulting mess.


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