Saturday, December 26, 2009

Movie, you are tearing me apart!

The Room (2003)

Johnny is just your average muscular, craggy/chalk-faced, heavy-lidded, long stringy-haired, often-incomprehensible, Euro-American computer and/or banking professional of some sort, who is a best friend to all (including animals). He loves Lisa and intends to marry her, but little does our hero know that she is tired of the good life he provides and starts fooling around with his best friend, Mark. Oh, and Johnny and all of his friends like to get together often and toss a football around – usually when they are standing no more than three feet apart.

Playing like some forgotten episode of The Outer Limits, with writer/director/producer/ executive producer/star/enigma Tommy Wiseau as the monster, The Room is a famous midnight movie that actually may be “the worst movie ever made.”

The story takes place in, around, and on top of Johnny’s apartment - more precisely his living room - which looks like nothing so much as one of those tacky faux home sets you see at malls and home improvement stores. For such a heavily trafficked place it doesn’t look like a home but the stage set that it is, and it has the oddest decoration scheme: a pair of odd marble columns on one side, deep red walls, a bricked up fireplace, light constantly streaming in no matter the time of day, framed photos of spoons, and apparently no locks on the front door as EVERYONE just comes in whether they live there or not. The loft bedroom above the room has the most awesome mosquito-netting you will ever see. Seriously, the World Health Organization should ask Wiseau where he got it and send it to those countries with the highest malaria rates.

This is one seriously fucked up movie. Right at the start, one character, Denny, whose “tuition” is being paid by Johnny (why this is done is never explained), shows up when Johnny and Lisa get a little amorous. Johnny tells him to scram, but Denny immediately responds that he “likes to watch” which gets no more than a laugh (or is that lauphf?) from Johnny and Lisa. He eventually leaves and Johnny and Lisa go up to his loft bedroom with the malaria nets and start to roll around when Denny suddenly jumps on the bed with them. Denny seems to have some kind of mental or emotional problem, but we’re never clear on what it is (which is a recurring motif in the movie, by that I mean the “never clear” part).

Later on, Denny is on the roof of Johnny’s place and is in trouble with a drug dealer, but he’s quickly rescued by Johnny and Mark who take the dealer downstairs. We’d never heard about this particular problem of Denny’s before, we don’t know why he owed the dealer money, what sort of drugs he was into, or what he was doing with them (using them himself, selling them to other kids, feeding them to squirrels, what?). We never see what Johnny and Mark did to the dealer after they take him off screen. And none of this is EVER brought up again in the movie.

The movie does that a lot, it starts a sub-plot then drops it. Lisa tells her mother she doesn’t love Johnny and doesn’t care about all the things he gives her. Lisa never gives a clear indication of why she loves or hates Johnny (or why she starts up with Mark). So WHY is she with Johnny? If she doesn’t care about the material things he provides - you know like that great room - then she’s not a gold digger, so WHY is she with him? (Perhaps it’s all the "muscular buttocks love" that Johnny gives her in their look-away-in-horror sex scenes.)

The Room is part movie, part myth. Wiseau, who seriously looks like he walked off the set of a cheap South American Conan the Barbarian rip-off where he played the evil king and slipped on an ill-fitting suit, is always coy about where he is originally from. He says he’s “American” but has a noticeable European-sounding accent, like he’s from a former Eastern Bloc country. He has trouble pronouncing many simple English words; he makes Jackie Chan sound like a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Here’s a soundboard featuring Wiseau and others from the movie:

The actress who plays Lisa, Juliette Danielle, looks like a chubby Britney Spears celebrity impersonator (this is NOT a good thing). She has three or four embarrassing nude love scenes with Wiseau (she was 18 years old at the time and Wiseau is MUCH older) and Greg Sestero who plays Mark. I was cringing so much during these scenes I lost count; I was actually wanting her to put her clothes back on.

All the scenes on the roof of Johnny’s place, and there are several of them, are done with green screen backgrounds. Isn’t this much more expensive than simply shooting the actors on a real rooftop setting? I imagine they did this to constantly have famous San Francisco landmarks, primarily the Transamerica Pyramid, in the background at all times. The movie already features a ton of stock shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, hilly streets, and the famous cable cars. We KNOW it is set in San Francisco. We don’t need to be reminded in EVERY scene where the story is set. We’re not going to look away, then look back and suddenly wonder if we’re in Hong Kong or Kansas City. We GET that we’re in San Francisco (the movie, however, will perplex and bewilder us in OTHER ways, but what city we’re in is NOT one of them). Besides, is San Francisco so small you always see the Transamerica Pyramid no matter where you live? I doubt it. This sounds similar to how bad American films set in England incorrectly believe you can always see Big Ben in the background no matter where you are in the country.

The movie has laugh-out-loud quotable dialogue; several lines would make great t-shirt slogans, all of it unintentionally funny, for example: "Oh, hi, Mark/Lisa/Denny/Whomever" said EVERY TIME Johnny sees someone and "Lisa, you are tearing me apart!" Of course, since the movie has garnered a measure of attention and success, Wiseau states it was all done this way on purpose. (I'd love to see a lie-detector go up in flames when he says that. FFWHOOSH!)

Wiseau was the director but someone else was behind the camera (to call him a director of photography is an insult to DPs everywhere). Apparently neither of them has ever seen a movie in the over 100 year history of cinema because not one scene was ever shot correctly. Film has a language; a basic film language is “master shot, close up, two shot, over the shoulder, wide angle, pan, tracking, etc.” The film language in The Room is, “ewajjfd, sdkfjadjp, eoijoaj, sdrjlll, ncvndkj (uitoeuroi), oweoapoiueronos, ip dn.”

The Room is not a movie, it is an experience. A good kind of cinematic whiplash. NEVER watch it alone, but only with like-minded friends. Watch The Room for all the right reasons: you want to play Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Home Version.

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