The Room (2003)


(spoilers ahead!)

The Room is the bad movie you wish for when you want to watch bad movies. I know I raved about I Know Who Killed Me as a great bad movie, but The Room is on a different level. It’s pretty infamous by now, so nothing I’m saying here is probably anything new, but the movie is just so awesome and weird, really unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It’s a bad movie I’d rewatch again anytime because it is really entertaining. But just for someone who doesn’t know the movie, I’m trying a plot summary here: Johnny (Tommy Wiseau, the writer/director/auteur) is in love with Lisa (Juliette Danielle), but she loves his friend Mark (Greg Sestero), who doesn’t really seem to love her but just can’t help himself sleeping with her. Add about half a dozen unresolved plotlines and you have a movie that makes no sense whatsoever. It plays mostly in one room, in which people at all times randomly enter and often leave again after 10-20 seconds. But actually, the less said, the better. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, go watch it now and come back to us trying to look at some of the thematic aspects of the movie.

Lisa is the archetypal, well, I’m not even sure how to put it. Everyone is entranced by her (for no apparent reason). Johnny does everything for her, as he doesn’t get tired of telling everyone, Mark finds her irresistible, Danny, the semi-adoptive 14-to-30-year-old boy from next door is into her too. She is supposed to be extremely attractive (which is a matter of taste I guess, so I’m not saying anything), but no one mentions any other favorable aspect of her. In fact, and here is where the movie’s extraordinary misogyny comes in, all we learn about her character is that she’s “a bitch” (towards the end of the movie she is called that many times). She is extremely manipulative (sure, everyone else is really stupid, but anyway), she is very mean to everyone and doesn’t seem to have any real feelings. She says she loves Mark, but there is no clear sign for that, she just seems really obsessed with him.  She is unhappy with Johnny, but we never really understand why, because although the movie revolves around this conflict, all she ever says is that she doesn’t love him and that he’s boring.

Her mother (Carolyn Minnott) is one of the other main female characters and it’s very hard to like her either. She tells Lisa all the time that she has to marry Johnny, because “he supports you, he provides for you and darling, you can’t support yourself […] His position is very secure and he told me he plans to buy you a house.” Lisa responds (this is such a funny movie!): “That’s why he’s so boring!” Hm. So her mom only cares about money and not about her daughters weird feelings. The strange thing is that although she defends Johnny and we’re supposed to be on his side, she still comes across as somewhat mean. Both women thereby are basically devoid of any real emotions, giving us the clear idea that women are not good or to be trusted.

The men on the other hand are different. Johnny is portrayed as a perfect partner, always bringing presents and flowers (the 30-second flower shop scene is one of the best things I’ve ever seen), always being nice, but maybe too nice? Despite all his romantic efforts, his girlfriend cheats on him, he doesn’t get the promotion at his job (“They betrayed me, they didn’t keep their promise, they tricked me and I don’t care anymore […] They are using me and I am the fool.” Poetry, really). And that’s the point the movie makes again and again. Johnny is the victim, totally pitiful and sad, a hero who is not recognized as the great person he is because, well, women are evil. Considering that Johnny is played the man who made the movie, this message is even more troubling. But the movie insists on it, over and over again: Johnny is good, but Lisa is destroying him with her mischievous behavior, best summarized by the rightfully infamous line “You’re tearing me apart!” The scene with the promotion continues like this and I just have to quote it here, to give anyone who hasn’t seen the movie and is still reading an idea of what they’re missing.

Lisa: I still love you.
Johnny: You’re the only one who does.
Lisa: At least you have friends, I didn’t get any calls today. You’re right, the computer business is too competitive. Do you want me to order a pizza?
Johnny: Whatever, I don’t care.
Lisa: I already ordered a pizza.
Johnny: Ha, you think about everything, ha ha.
Lisa: What’s the matter? You alright? It’s just a lousy promotion. You know what you need? You need a drink.
Johnny: I don’t drink, you know that.
— The Room

So, Lisa then seduces him into drinking just to pretend that he hit her, because, you know, she’s a bitch, obviously. That is what women do to us poor men. And so, throughout the movie, until its silly end, that’s we’re told again and again. Lisa behaves terribly all the way, no matter what anyone tells her and regardless of any sense her behavior doesn’t make. Not that she gets great advice. Her friends tell she shouldn’t break up with Johnny because it would destroy their friendship, which is not really helpful, so maybe their friendship isn’t so great anyway.

The big finale includes lots of shoving and an endless sequence in which Johnny is desperate and Lisa is there for him in one moment, then gets angry and leaves, leading to him expressing all his despair with crying, screaming, trashing the room (or should I say “The Room”?), dry-humping the dress he gave her (yes, that happens) and, well, killing himself. He goes on and on about how everyone betrays him and she stabs him in the back and how he did everything for her. It’s very much like a child going “This is so unfair!” Or, and this is probably more accurate, like a teenager suffering through his first heartbreak, actually believing that his life ends if a relationship falls apart. Which would be fine in a way, but the movie’s message is clear: it’s women’s fault. They are bad and you can’t trust them. They will tear you apart, you know, despite the occasional pizza.