A Room of His Own Making — Review: The Room (2003)

Poster for The Room (2003). Image via Studio 35.

There has never been a movie like The Room, not before and definitely not since. This is one of those cinematic anomalies that demands to be watched and analyzed. Although a million and a half things went wrong during this 100-minute feature, Tommy Wiseau, the film’s enigmatic and eccentric creator, has somehow made, in his own rights, a masterpiece.

Everything about The Room has become something of folklore amongst filmmakers and filmgoers. As a film critic, I could have spent this entire review pointing out the movie’s most glaring flaws: the terrible writing and equally laughable line delivery; the subplots that contribute nothing to the main storyline; the unconvincing green screen effects; etc.

Or I could have just shared the amazing stories surrounding its production: Tommy’s ludicrous budget plan and directing style; how one simple scene took 32 takes to complete; how Tommy essentially spied on the whole crew during production; etc. But I realized by doing so, I may fail to appreciate the earnestness, hard work and ambition that went into creating this cinematic treasure.

The storyline is simple enough: it’s just a run-of-the-mill tale of a love triangle. Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) is successful, well-liked among his peers and is engaged to the beautiful Lisa (Juliette Danielle). But everything starts to collapse on him when his future wife has an affair with his best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero). As most of its fans would say, describing the plot of The Room does not fully encapsulate why it has a massive cult following. But to me, considering Wiseau’s insistence on keeping his personal life private, the story might be its author showing a glimpse of his biography.

It’s pretty easy to point out that The Room is based on a true event, or at least inspired by Tommy’s worldview and life experience. As a wild guess, I think a similar story happened in some chapter in Tommy’s past: he fell for someone, but that person cheated on him with his most trusted friend. That explains Tommy’s trust issues, why he concealed his personal identity and how he refused to let everyone else into his circle of friendship.

Some of The Room’s principle characters seem to be ideal versions of themselves. Johnny’s attributes are what Tommy himself desires to have: a successful job, a reliable friend circle, a loyal partner, etc. Lisa, for better or worse, is what Tommy expects from a girlfriend: someone who orders pizzas to comfort her boyfriend, who receives pretty dresses and flowers as a mind-blowing gesture of love, etc. Mark symbolizes the best friend Tommy thought he had: reliable, wise and most of all, committed to the friendship.

I believe the best way to look at The Room is to see it as a clash between ideals and reality. As Tommy’s characters act against how he wishes them to be, the world he constructed for them starts to fall apart, leaving behind nothing but tragedy.

I guess he learned life’s most important lesson the hard way: life is not a set of ideals, it is total chaos; and you can only choose to change yourself rather than controlling the people around you.

I don’t think Tommy Wiseau expected his movie to have this kind of reception. The Room, after 15 years, is still shown in midnight screenings around the world. It gained a growing, dedicated fan-base, becoming one of the all-time greatest bad movies.

As mentioned earlier, I believe Tommy’s dedication and sincerity contributed to the film’s popularity. Deep down, he just wants to be loved. This is a man who insists on being the good guy even though he looks like a villain; who will stop at nothing to see his vision realized; who conceals his vulnerabilities behind a veneer of eccentricity.

Unfortunately, the tragedy of Tommy Wiseau is that he can never make something like The Room a second time, despite his efforts. That’s how strange this movie is: even its makers cannot help but be fascinated by it. I guess the point I’m trying to make is: keep in mind, when you laugh all the way through the film’s runtime, the appreciation Tommy deserves for creating something so unique it cannot be replicated.