BY EMMA MARTIN ’20
The screening room of the South Hadley Tower Theaters was buzzing last Saturday, as people gathered to see a special midnight screening of cult classic flop, “The Room,” written, directed by and starring Tommy Wiseau. As the title credits and oversweeping shots of San Francisco, it become apparent that no one in the theater was taking the movie seriously. The audience shouted and cracked jokes the entire evening.
Wiseau plays the ideal man who is cheated out of what he deserves by the betrayal of his best friend Mark (played by Wiseau’s actual best friend, Greg Sestero, “Days of Our Lives”) and his sexy but heartless girlfriend Lisa (Juliette Danielle, “Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws”). Viewers may think the film is a parody or a comedy, but it’s just bad. “The Room” sincerely presents all the qualities of an atrocious film: a cheesy soundtrack, a painfully drawn out sex scene that appears twice, re-recorded audio, fake soap-opera sets, two-dimensional characters and awkward, ridiculous dialogue.
Why hasn’t a movie this objectively terrible — the evidence of one strange man’s Hollywood fantasy come to life — not been buried forever? One would expect “The Room” to have an eccentric, niche fan base, yet it has gained a global following and only increased in popularity since the 2017 release of James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist,” in which he plays Wiseau. “The Disaster Artist” is based on Sestero’s book of the same name about the disastrous making of “The Room.”
Audience member Nicole Trombly ’21, who had seen both films prior to the screening, said that watching “The Disaster Artist” made her want to see “The Room.” “I think what does it for me is the experience of seeing ‘The Room’ with other people,” said Trombly. “The scenes and dialogue are hilariously bad on their own, but surrounded by other people all laughing it makes it even funnier.”
Lizzie Allen ’21, a self-declared ‘Room’ super-fan, said that “[‘The Room’] has become a fun, silly thing that I can share with my friends and have a laugh about.”
“I think people are attracted to “The Room” because it is so universally bad that everyone has a lot of fun making fun of it,” said Joliet Morril ’21, a friend of Allen.
One of the funniest aspects of “The Room” is that Wiseau is convinced that he’s created a masterpiece. This delusion was apparent in a special interview conducted by Franco, tacked on to the end of the screening. Franco asks Wiseau whether he’s offended when viewers laugh at serious scenes, such as the melodramatic ending. Wiseau counters that “Citizen Kane” is a serious movie that people laugh at, his response causing the theater to explode in laughter yet again. Wiseau’s unflinching commitment to his film would be pathetic, but isn’t. He doesn’t know or care why people are laughing because it’s ultimately made him famous.
Perhaps viewers are attracted to “The Room” because it’s such a clear product of what Wiseau believes is the American Dream. One man with no talent who knows nothing about movies can write, direct and star in his own movie, even after scores of people tell him that he shouldn’t — it’s a classic underdog story. Or perhaps it’s the bonding experience of watching a train wreck together that turns viewers into fans.
“Everyone was so into it,” said Trombly. “You’re surrounded by complete strangers but it’s like you all know each other the way we shout things at the screen and everyone yells lines together. ‘The Room’ itself is not a good movie, but it’s one of the best possible movies to watch with other people, friends and strangers.”