Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Crazy Cult of 'The Room'


At a midnight screening in a Los Angeles multiplex, the atmosphere hovers somewhere between rambunctious and mildly terrifying. Whenever a framed photograph of a spoon appears on screen, which it frequently does, audience members throw fistfuls of plastic cutlery. They also perform skits, at one point gathering at the bottom right of the screen and shouting, ''Down here, Tommy!'' anticipating the moment when the face of the lead actor, Tommy Wiseau, looks in their direction. And they comment loudly on blurrily shot scenes (''Focus!'') or inadequately introduced characters (''Who the f--- are you?'').

Late-night showings of cult films such as The Rocky Horror Picture Showand The Big Lebowski are known for their rowdy and strange behavior too. But people who go to see Rocky Horror and Lebowski think those films are good. Tonight's movie, an obscure, five-year-old drama called The Room, holds a different place in the hearts of those present at West Hollywood's Laemmle Sunset 5. ''It's absolutely terrible,'' says Chris Bonk, a talent-agency assistant who has seen the film more than 15 times. ''The script is not the best. The acting is certainly not the best. The music is horrible.''

The Room is a San Francisco-set love triangle involving a banker named Johnny, his friend Mark, and Johnny's fiancée Lisa, who is sleeping with both men. The film does seem to be beset with problems. Various subplots are inadequately resolved or simply disappear altogether, including the throwaway revelation that Lisa's mother is suffering from cancer. The film's many rooftop shots feature an unrealistic San Francisco backdrop, thanks to some less-than-impressive greenscreen work. There are lengthy, unerotic sex scenes, the last of which prompts a section of the audience to depart the auditorium temporarily in mock protest. Finally, in one sequence, a sharp bone seems about to erupt from Lisa's neck for no reason at all.

The film's so-bad-it's-freakin'-awesome vibe has attracted a devout army of aficionados whose membership includes the cream of Hollywood's comedy community. Role Models star Paul Rudd and Arrested Development's David Cross are both fans, as is Jonah Hill, who uses a still from the movie as his MySpace photograph. Heroes star Kristen Bell hosts Room-viewing parties at her house and last year attended the film's monthly Laemmle screening with Rudd, Hill, and Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright. ''There is a magic about that film that is indescribable,'' she says.

The Room has even infiltrated the halls of cinematic academia. ''It is one of the most important films of the past decade,'' says Ross Morin, an assistant professor of film studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. ''It exposes the fabricated nature of Hollywood. The Room is the Citizen Kane of bad movies.''

(Click the above link for the full article - quite long, and quite entertaining.)

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