I loped down the theater steps, tailed by several friends, as a giant, pulsating mass of theatergoers shouted at decibel levels that, along with the adrenaline pumping through us, rendered the movie inaudible. As we reached the bottom, we spotted several other audience members scavenging a graveyard of plastic spoons, which had been thrown at the screen whenever a picture of a spoon appeared in a scene. As I stuffed precious ammunition into my pockets, heinous cries of “Spoon whore!” and “We don’t want your kind around here!” poured in from the front row. Everyone began beaming their spoons at us. We were showered with spoons. "Good, more ammo for me," I thought greedily, and giggled maniacally. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. Never in my life have I been so happy to be called a spoon whore.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me the pleasure of introducing you to the 10th anniversary midnight screening of The Room, the horrid masterpiece produced, directed, written, and starred in by the bizarre, brazenly oblivious, but ultimately lovable Tommy Wiseau, who appeared for a Q&A before the show. (Additional anniversary screenings are coming up at theaters around the country.)
What is The Room?
The Room is a movie everyone should watch at least once in their life. It is not an ordinary movie. It is a fiasco. The most astonishing thing about this glorious cinematic mess is that it has survived for over a decade, while thousands of more proficient movies have been relegated to obscurity. How, exactly, did The Room survive? How did it crawl from the maw of critical and commercial failure to stardom? It begins with the legend himself, Tommy Wiseau.
My girlfriend and I arrived at New York City’s Sunshine Cinema almost two hours early, only to find a growing line snaking around the block. As we approached the back of the line, she nudged me, and said, “It’s him!” Wiseau, wearing a rockstar leather vest and neon green shirt, was high-fiving people down the line. I fumbled for my glasses and blurted out “Tommy!” as he passed, raising my hand high. He ignored me. Somewhat distraught, I took my place in line.
The plot of the movie is simple. Wiseau plays a banker named Johnny who's unwittingly thrust into a love triangle with his best friend Mark and his fiancée Lisa. However, The Room is marred by comically dreadful writing, hilariously bad acting, gaping plot holes, useless characters, quirks (Wiseau's ridiculous, robo-European laugh), inconsistencies, and general weirdness (random football game in a tux, anyone? Or maybe you’d like to replicate the movie’s drink of choice, a fusion of scotch and vodka: scotchka?).
I first saw the movie at home on DVD. It's an entirely different creature without the roaring crowd. When it's finished with you, The Room leaves you with an empty, severely jet-lagged sensation, as if you've just flown back from another planet. I felt that way for a week, stumbling around, as if in a dream, with a hollowness rooted deep inside my chest.
As we navigated the serpentine line to the kiosk to redeem the tickets we had ordered two weeks in advance, people shouted, “Red dress! Red dress!” at my girlfriend, as hers resembled the signature red dress worn by Lisa in the film. We soon spotted several other red dresses, one of them on a blatant cross-dresser in an orange wig. An hour later, two friends who’d never seen the movie joined in line, blissfully unaware of the surreal scene that was about to envelop us.
We entered the theater. There were so many attendees that two additional theaters were set up to accommodate latecomers. A few minutes after the clock struck 12, Wiseau himself graced us with his presence. He was greeted with thunderous applause and roaring praise. Wiseau's somewhat naïve dedication to his fan base — which fuels his rockstar gusto — has kept the audience enamored with, and fascinated by, his on-screen and real-life personas, which appear to be one and the same.
Tommy called down everyone wearing a tuxedo and red dress, and lined them up for “decoration.” He then took questions from to the audience. Mockingly swooning audience members asked Wiseau what inspired his creative genius, what they should take away from this movie, and about the symbolism of the spoons. Wiseau, of course, took the questions dead seriously, and responded with incoherent answers, or just plain drivel.
A lone dissenter rose from the audience, and called the movie out for what everybody knew it was: pure garbage, one of the worst cinematic failures in the history of cinema, the "Citizen Kane of bad movies."
But we weren’t on planet earth, anymore. We were in a world where Tommy Wiseau is god, and his movie is the gold standard. Nobody wanted to go back to reality. Boos filled the theater, spoons were thrown at the heathen, and Wiseau called him a chicken.
The Q&A wrapped up, and Wiseau ascended the stairs, again giving high fives. I was determined to get his attention this time. As he reached our row, I screamed, “I love you, Tommy!” at his leather-clad back. He instantly turned around and gave me the high five I so coveted. And when he left, the movie began.
My friends, initially shocked by the subculture that had emerged before their very eyes, soon joined in, shouting the right phrases at the screen at the right time, using the correct props during the appropriate scenes (tossing a football when anyone throws one in the movie, throwing spoons whenever a picture of a spoon appears), and improvising phrases when necessary. The absolute awfulness of the actual movie is its saving grace. More than any other cinematic farce that’s ever been committed to celluloid, The Room has gone so far beyond bad that it has become exceptionally good (as a comedy), and incredibly memorable, right down to the audience cues.
When the fiasco was finished, everyone left the theater exhilarated. As theatergoers poured into the street, all somewhat shell-shocked and disheartened the experience was over, one of my friends asked, "Where the hell is Tommy Wiseau from?" Someone behind us shouted, “Transsexual Transylvania!”
The Room can only grow in influence. With each sold-out screening, it gains new traditions, new acts, and new viewers. The Room goes beyond simple entertainment. It thrives because of its followers. It's hilarious, it's otherworldly, and it's freaking fun.
As Wiseau awkwardly and arbitrarily said, “You can laugh, you can cry, you can express yourself, but please don't hurt each other.”