The Room: The Definitive Guide

| November 11, 2014

The Room is a terrible film.  Let’s just dismiss any illusions to the contrary.  Director Tommy Wiseau’s chaotic, insane, ugly narrative about a man (Wiseau) who is blissfully in love with his girlfriend Lisa (Juliette Danielle) until she randomly decides to start cheating on him and ruin his life has become a cult classic.  I would bet money that some theater in the country will be showing the film tonight at midnight, probably with Wiseau available for a drug-induced Q&A afterwards.  Sign me up!

The film has achieved its immense popularity for one reason:  it is one of the best bad movies ever made, often compared with the likes of Plan 9 from Outer Space, Birdemic: Shock and Terror, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014).  The film is amazingly bad in virtually every way.  The acting is choppy, the characters’ motivations are vague and random, the direction is laughable, and many of the technical aspects are hastily thrown together.  The only thing more bewildering than the first love scene between Wiseau and Danielle is the second one, which is just a recutting of the first one.  This is a bad movie, and there’s something quite wonderful about that.

Ryan Finnigan seems to agree as he has put together the ultimate comprehensive love letter to The Room with this book.  The book takes us through Finnigan’s long and complicated relationship with the film, from love at first sight to introducing the film to his friends and family.  An entire section of the book is devoted to easing readers into watching the movie and then easing their loved ones into watching.  Finnigan is all too aware that The Room will actively repel any traditional audience, and much like you wouldn’t go out tomorrow and run a marathon, you probably would not also jump into a viewing of The Room if you tend to watch Fellini and Godard.  It takes work to be a fan of really bad films.  It takes time and dedication, and most importantly, it takes a lot of support.  Do not watch The Room by yourself; surround yourself with friends and loved ones who can help shoulder the burden.

After Finnigan orientates you to the film and does his best to prepare you for your screening, the bulk of his guide breaks the film down into ten minute chunks, and dissects each one with a chapter.  These chapters, written by Alan Jones, are a bit summary heavy in my opinion, but also take on the perspective of a person watching the film in real time.  Each chapter posits what might happen based on what we’re seeing at that moment and what we already know.  This provides some context for Jones’s analysis such as it is, but again much of these chapters feel like a novelization of the film, which is appropriately absurd.  In between the different chapters there are a series of interviews with the cast of the film.  Unfortunately, there’s no interview with Wiseau himself, or Greg Sestero, who plays Mark in the film.  There is an interesting interview with Sestero on “The Room” episode of the How Did This Get Made podcast, in which the actor discusses the experience of making the film, working with Wiseau.  The host of How Did This Get Made? (Paul Scheer) is interviewed in this book about his love of all things The Room.  Sestero probably declined to be interviewed because he recently released his own memoir about making the film entitled The Disaster Artist.  I will be adding that to my reading list soon.

Overall, I love that this book exists.  It is a welcome addition to my shelf.  I can’t suggest reading through the scene breakdowns; instead, just utilize the helpful preparation section at the beginning, then watch the film, and check out the fascinating behind the scenes interviews.  As a fan of adaptation, the chapter on the extended “Roomniverse” which discusses fans adapting the film for stage and as some sort of video game homage.  The book is crafted with a loving devotion to a film that defies all logic, and the interviews allow those who made the film along with those who are simply fans to celebrate the insanity together.

Available now from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

About the Author:

Joe Sanders Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
Filed in: Books on Film
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