It’s not pleasant to think about this, but putting in your best effort doesn’t always guarantee good results. Sometimes you miss out on success by such a fine margin that you can taste it. Other times you’re so wide of the mark that your failure acquires its own sort of intrigue.
This post is going to discuss the latter category.
With the buzz around the recent film The Disaster Artist, the 2003 film The Room (The Disaster Artist is about the making of The Room) is being talked about than it had been as a steady cult phenomenon. To capitalize on this, The Room is being screened nationwide for one night only.
Am I going? You’d better believe it!
I actually haven’t seen The Room before, although I have a vague idea of its plot. But the plot isn’t even the point. By all accounts, The Room is a spectacularly bad movie. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that many people are interested in the chain of events that led to this movie becoming a reality.
What makes a movie like The Room special? A lot has been said about the intersection of star/director/producer Tommy Wiseau’s insistence on his vision and the complete failure of said vision to resemble how real people behave, so I don’t want to rehash that.
I think it taps into a deep anxiety that most people, especially creative people have: that their creative work is terrible and that they’re completely clueless about how terrible it is. It appears Wiseau’s answer to this conundrum would be, “So what?”
I’ve noticed some people calling The Room “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.” Since 2003 wasn’t really that long ago and Citizen Kane was made in 1941, it’s reasonable to guess that The Room is not the first movie where someone has made that comparison.
Prior to The Room’s cult success, the generally agreed-upon “worst movie ever” was 1959’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. Plan 9 was a Z-grade sci-fi movie that also happend to be Bela Lugosi’s final film (Lugosi was the original Dracula in the 1930s). And when I say it was Bela Lugosi’s final film, I mean there’s a tiny amount of B-roll footage of Lugosi and a whole lot of footage of some double who doesn’t look much like Lugosi at all.
The director of Plan 9 From Outer Space was a guy named Ed Wood, who made a whole slew of terrible movies. You might have seen Tim Burton’s 1994 movie Ed Wood about the man and his work. I have no idea how accurate the movie was, but there was a cheerfulness to the movie’s version of Wood and the people who worked with him.
There are 2 possible ways to approach Wood’s creative process, and they are summed up by Wood’s girlfriends in the movie. The first girlfriend, who ends up dumping Wood, says at one point, “Well, I see the usual cast of misfits and dope addicts are here.” And she wasn’t wrong.
The girlfriend he meets later in the movie has a different perspective on the cast and crew, though. Her perspective is, “Eddie’s the only fella in town who doesn’t pass judgment on people.” And that’s true, too, at least in the context of the movie.
It could be argued that some degree of passing judgement is necessary to be a good director. But the people in Wood’s films seem to have a good time making them.
I must also confess a bit of personal bias here. I was in a theatrical group in my undergraduate years. Most of what we did was pretty terrible, but it was a lot of fun to make. And say what you will about the likes of Tommy Wiseau and Ed Wood, they’ve made more films than a person who just sits on the couch and makes fun of them.
And personally, I’d rather sit through The Room or Plan 9 several times over than watch some bland mediocrity designed purely to sell merchandise. I could probably write an entire post on my seething hatred of those kinds of movies, but I’ll spare you that. For now, anyway.