The Disaster Artist is bringing in massive praise, the staff of Pop Break reflected on their favorite scenes from Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic.
The Flower Shop Scene (Matt Gilbert)
When was the last time you really watched The Room?
I mean really watched it. Not just showed it to your friends and laughed with whatever amount of alcohol you deemed necessary to make the experience tolerable. When was the last time you actually sat down with this movie and weighed its positives and negatives (okay, negatives and negatives) against any level of critical, introspective thought? By all rights this is a terrible movie. I have literally nothing good to say about it. It feels like it was borne from one of Roger Ebert’s darkest nightmares due to how catastrophically written, acted, directed, paced, edited and constructed it is. As a piece of art it fails on every level. But as a piece of the 21st century culture, it is fascinating.
Consider for a moment The Room’s most famous line. Yes, that one. Put aside the “Oh hi, Mark” and focus on the first five sentences. As the viewer, we know Johnny is telling the truth about the alleged domestic abuse, but that actually makes it worse. Lisa doesn’t love Johnny anymore, so she lies about him getting drunk and hitting her.
To what end, I am not entirely sure. When Lisa tells her mother about the assault, her gasping response is not “Oh my God,” it’s “Johnny doesn’t drink!” What’s more, Claudette doesn’t seem to care about her daughter not loving Johnny because of his financial security. When Johnny asks Peter what to do about Lisa he says to control her. Guys, does Tommy Wiseau hate women? The only woman who does anything in the story is Lisa, and she is written to be manipulative and selfish and basically evil. The Room has been ripped to shreds a thousand times over for failing on every level a film can fail on.
I suspect for that reason Wiseau has risen to the status of cult movie god largely unscathed by accusations of misogyny. I would love to hear exactly what Wiseau thought The Room was about while he wrote it. But as a movie that has survived the last 14 years by never having to be taken seriously as text, actually watching and analyzing it through the lens of 2017 is a brand new and surreal experience. Because I promise you, as bas as this movie is…and it is…the past 14 years have actually made it worse.
So let’s talk about the flower shop scene. Of every part of the making of The Room that The Disaster Artist will hopefully demystify, this is by far my most anticipated. Honestly what happened here? Why is it all over in 30 seconds? Why does the flower shop clerk know Johnny? Why does she not know it’s him wearing sunglasses? Why does he say “that’s me?” Why is he the clerk’s favorite customer? Why are dogs allowed on the counter? What does this add to the story? Tearing this scene apart on its merits (or lack thereof) feels pointless due to how it’s practically par for the course with the rest of the movie. But how one tiny scene can raise so many head-scratching questions is an inverted microcosmic masterpiece of failure all on its own.
Johnny’s Surprise Party (Melissa Jouben)
I was still in high school the first time I’d heard about The Room, when I saw an interview with Tommy Wiseau on a late-night talk show. Like everyone else, I was instantly captivated and confused by the man with the thick-but-vague accent who insisted he was American, who talked lovingly about this film that he poured his heart into but insisted was a joke.
It was so hard to get a read on whether or not his entire public image was an act that I felt like I had to seek out and watch his so-called “Citizen Kane of bad movies” to figure it out for myself. There is something really special about watching a movie this insane, and if I had to explain why, I think part of the reason was how well-produced it seemed despite the poor quality of the writing, acting, directing, editing, stage and costume design, etc. It felt like a mistake that you were never supposed to see, and yet the man responsible for it was playing it to sold-out crowds.
I met my best friend and comedy writing partner a few months later when I saw him walking around our high school cafeteria with a DVD copy of it tucked under his arm and approached him to talk about it. When I turned 18, I opened a bank account and almost immediately bought a DVD of The Room on Amazon. I picked the standard 5-7 day shipping and it arrived the next day, dropped off on my doorstep by a woman in a red car, contributing just another piece of the mystery and the magic that this movie brought to my life.
That mystery and magic is a feeling that seems shared amongst all of The Room’s most vociferous fans. We all discovered it seemingly by accident or through a friend who introduced it to us, still buzzing over their disbelief that a movie this bad could ever exist in earnest. It was our generation’s answer to trading cassette tape recordings of prank calls, only now we were all connected by the internet and the network of people sharing it were able to do so faster and more visibly than ever. It was almost like a rite of passage to see The Room and then be able to show it to someone else. In a post-digital age, it’s probably the last time being a part of something like this will ever feel that “underground” while also being enormously popular.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the surprise party for Johnny; specifically when it winds down and moves inside the apartment. At this point, Johnny and Lisa’s relationship has more or less dissolved right in front of our eyes and she no longer feels compelled to hide the fact she’s got her sights set on Mark. While slow dancing just a little too close together, one of their friends, fed up with Lisa’s lying and manipulation, decides to confront them.
This leads to Mark delivering the now-classic line, “leave your stupid comments in your pocket!” That line is utter nonsense, delivered with a sneer and pure disgust, and it entered into my own personal lexicon the second I heard it. The scene also features the infamous fight between Johnny and Mark, probably one of the clumsiest and least-coordinated fights you’ll see in a movie that cost over six million dollars to create.
The Rooftop Scene (Chris Diggins)
The Room would be a much worse movie if it was actually any good. And I don’t just mean that it would be lacking the comedy from its sheer technical incompetence. You see, The Room is, at its core, deeply misogynistic. It’s a movie about how a woman ruins her fiance’s life through duplicity and infidelity, for seemingly no reason beyond pure spite. It is frequently stated that this kind of behavior is emblematic of all women, and in the end Lisa (the perfidious woman in question) is blamed for everything that went wrong. Any movie that successfully conveyed these themes would be horrifying, to say the least, and certainly not one that would inspire countless joyful rewatches.
And yet, despite this troubling fact, The Room is miraculously saved through its own failure. It is impossible for even the most committed misogynist to take Tommy Wiseau’s rambling diatribes about women seriously, robbing them of any sting they might have had. It even, in a bizarre way, becomes part of what makes The Room so endlessly fascinating, as it serves as yet one more tantalizing detail in the haphazard portrait of Tommy Wiseau the movie draws. Instead of a condemnation of women, it becomes a window into the deeply troubled mind of a man driven to questionable goals with dubious results.
And that passion is almost inspiring. The burning desire to say something of meaning, as uncomfortable as that something may be upon inspection, suffuses every frame of this movie. Not only that, but it’s clear that Tommy Wiseau really thought he was making something incredible. Any idiot can make a bad movie, but it takes a genius or a fool to pour all your heart and soul into something that turns out awful. The unplaceable accent, the obvious green screens, the wooden acting, the terrible ADRing, those are the things that make us laugh, but it’s this intangible something that keeps us drawn back to it again and again. In the end, it’s practically poetic: through complete and total failure, something gross has been transformed into something striking, even beautiful. Considering how often the reverse happens, it’s no wonder people are drawn to this delightful little miracle of a film.
Favorite Scene: The Rooftop Scene
This scene has pretty much everything you could ask for from The Room. Set in front of a green screen backdrop that might as well be a painted landscape for how bad it looks, with the most poorly synced ADR in the world, there’s plenty of technical goofs to laugh at. Then there’s the dialogue, rapidly shifting between subjects with no transition and filled with bizarre emotional reactions (thinking “a woman got beat up by one of her boyfriends” is a funny story really doesn’t help Johnny’s case that he’s not an abuser). And who could ever forget that iconic opening? “I did not hit her, I did not! Oh hi Mark.” In a movie filled with amazing scenes, this one is a stone cold classic.
The Alley Football Scene (George Heftler)
As far as I’m concerned, what makes The Room special has more to do with people as a whole, as opposed to the movie itself. We’re in a cynical age, where apathy is cool and people love to tear things apart. And sure, there’s some of that in our adoration of The Room. The things that are awful about the movie are some of the most celebrated, including by myself. But at the same time, there’s a certain idealism about the movie that I think resonates with people underneath our hard exteriors.
It’s not easy to make a movie, and I’ll be damned if Tommy Wiseau didn’t put his heart, soul, and six million dollars into this. The guy didn’t do a good job, but he tried his hardest, and you have to respect it. That kind of passion isn’t easy to find, especially with Hollywood cranking out garbage like Transformers 9: Cybertron Rising every other day. So, while we like to tease, I think our enjoyment of The Room comes from seeing someone just have their heart on their sleeve.
My personal favorite scene is the first alleyway football scene (yes, there’s more than one). It has it all. An awful monologue. Tommy’s weird laugh and “Oh hai Mark.” Awful framing, with half the group being off-screen while still tossing the football around. People not actually knowing how humans act. It has zero impact on the plot, could easily have been cut without losing anything, and yet? It’s delightful, and I wouldn’t lose it for anything.