At this year’s Golden Globes, Seth Rogen presented the award for best picture. Nominated was The Disaster Artist, a film based on a novel inspired by the making of the 2003 cult classic, The Room. This original film, according to Rogen, was “so bad, yet so enjoyable, it made you actually question the nature of quality itself.” James Franco’s new movie examining The Room, motivates us to question the nature of the term “quality.”
The following are three pros and three cons considering the quality of The Room.
A Necessary Piece to the Cinematic Puzzle
That The Room has inspired other cinematic creations is a testament to its branding as a legend among films. It is also studied in universities across America, as The Room borrows ideas from brilliant cinema and recreates them, inspired by the likes of James Dean. The directing, casting and production choices in The Room inspire conversation to this day, inside and outside classrooms. The total freedom that writer, director, producer and star of The Room, Tommy Wiseau, had while filming is not seen outside of university projects, usually due to lack of funds and creative limitations that come with working with a team. For a work like this to be so accessible on an international scale and acknowledged by many different types of audiences provides a broad, respectable and admirable platform to comprehensively explore cinema.
The Proof Is in the Pudding
A film’s greatness is proven by its longevity, not by its box office worth. Films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Office Space were all box office flops, yet each one found a permanent place in our hearts. Although The Room got off to a wonky start, only screening for two weeks, it only took a matter of months before diehard fans were campaigning to get it back on LA screens. By May 2009, there were monthly midnight screenings in New York City; by July of that year, screenings hit London. The Room celebrated its ten-year anniversary with a tour of America. It even spawned a stage adaptation and its own computer game.
Quality Art Builds Communities
Communities are built on shared belief and experience. On opening night of The Room, the audience was split into two: those who walked out in disgust, and those who could not look away from the on-screen train wreck. However, the latter group soon became a force to be reckoned with. These fans hounded Wiseau to resume screenings and have kept those screenings running for over a decade. They have developed rituals around the movie, the most famous being “the spoon,” where fans throw plastic spoons at the screens in recognition of a recurring prop spoon. The fan base around The Room provides a rare communal experience that keeps many fans loyal to their community of celebrating the small things.
The Culture of Irony
The culture of irony has led us astray from actual art. Living in a culture that glorifies avocado tattoos does not make avocado tattoos a good idea, nor is it a testament to their artform. Just because something is loved does not make it quality, it only makes it popular. Fans’ morbid fascination with how bad the acting is in The Room doesn’t change the fact that viewers are left watching bad acting. Each cringe-evoking piece of dialogue and delivery is a testament to the movie’s lack of craftsmanship. The quality of The Room cannot be deemed good just because we live in a culture that thrives on irony.
Abuse of Funds and Power
In a time when Hollywood has embarked on a campaign of fair working conditions, The Room makes a mockery of women’s and basic rights in the industry. With an estimated budget of $6 million that Wiseau funded himself, he essentially bought the rights to enable his mistreatment of cast and crew, subjecting them to unfair conditions as well as emotional trauma. A film that is not based on skill or talent is doomed to reflect the darker side of fame-seeking and power. Supporting this is, at the core, hypocritical of an empathetic audience. In an industry where the producer calls the shots, Tommy Wiseau was judge, jury and executioner, the exact culture we are supposedly trying to bury.
Intention Alone Doesn’t Count
Wiseau set out to make the All-American Movie based on “human behavior.” What ensues is anarchy. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is it reality? The movie brings to mind the old adage: “Aim for the stars and you might land on a planet.” Wiseau aimed for the stars and landed in a world of disappointment. No matter how many times you watch The Room, you’re still left asking yourself “What is it?”
The Room not only spawned The Disaster Artist, but on its strength alone captured a strong fan base and fueled screenings that continue more than a decade later. Does The Room have a place on our screens, or should it have remained the fever dream of a failing actor?