There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of independently produced, written, and directed features that are as comically inept as The Room. But none of them have Tommy Wiseau at the center.
Not only the producer, writer, and director, Wiseau also stars as Johnny, a San Francisco banker cheerfully oblivious to the fact that his fiance Lisa (Juliette Danielle) is aggressively seducing his best friend Mark (Greg Sestero). Much of this is eyebrow-raising. Who is this “kid” (Philip Haldiman) who lives next door and forces his way into Johnny and Lisa’s erotic pillow fight? Why do Tommy and his friends play catch so much? Will Lisa’s mother (Carolyn Minnott) end yet another conversation with her daughter by playfully tapping her on the nose? (The answer, every time, is yes.) Yet beyond all this, it is Wiseau’s onscreen presence that elevates The Room into the bad-movie pantheon. Mostly wearing an ill-fitting suit, peeking out from a cascading swath of black hair, and punctuating every line with a forced, nervous chuckle, Wiseau’s Tommy shuffles about repeatedly announcing three things: he loves Lisa, she is his fiance, and Mark is his best friend.
The movie’s repetition of these facts, its general stiffness, and the claustrophobic title location all make The Room feel like a distant cousin to David Lynch. It also shares Lynch’s obsession with psychological distress, which is something to genuinely admire. Whatever personal experience Wiseau is drawing on, there is real pain here, and that gives what every landmark bad movie needs: total commitment. Wiseau’s fearless attempt to project his pain onto the big screen makes him something of the inverse of Edward D. Wood Jr., infamous for Plan 9 From Outer Space, perhaps the bad-movie granddaddy of all time. Both Wood and Wiseau have thoroughly dedicated themselves to a vision only they can see, yet the former seems to be working from a place of giddy enthusiasm, while the latter appears driven by genuine anguish. Not every bad movie has the raw, misguided honesty of The Room.