Directed, Produced by, Paid for by, and Introducing in a leading role Tommy Wiseau, 99 min., on DVD
I was told of this fine film by an old friend from high school, and was intrigued to learn that it is listed as one of the worst films of all time on Wikipedia, as well as a cult classic. In terms of watching bad films, the true test for me is can you laugh at it enough before you are sufficiently bored and disgusted. In other words, does the campy delight of a film outweigh the awfulness. In terms The Room, it’s a very close race.
Much of the flat out awfulness comes from Tommy Wiseau’s inability to deliver lines in live action. I’m not sure whether his proficiency with English is the issue, or his complete inability to “act” as we know it. His acting style is a cross between faux-brusqueness and Eurotrash sleazebaggery. It’s as if he watched new wave French existential films, gleaned only the most irritating aspects, then tried to translate it into some kind of reading on contemporary American culture. The only comparable misreading of how people actually speak and behave that I can think of is The Conqueror where Howard Hughes casts John Wayne as Genghis Kahn, and attempts to depict how the ancient Mongol “savages” lived. I’ve found nothing that quite compares with Wayne’s wooden delivery, until I watched this film. Enjoy some “highlights” of what some might describe as “acting” ***warning, NSFW***:
Everyone involved in this project, it’s safe to say, was marked for career death by this film. Despite the reported six million dollar budget that Wiseau payed out of pocket (lacking studio support), most of the scenes take place in front of green screens and cramped sets that are not so much built for the action of the scene, but generic spots where something can happen, from casual conversations to an impromptu football match. Consider the following:
When asked in a bizarre interview included with the DVD extras why there is a random tuxedo football match or why they are only three feet apart when throwing the ol’ pigskin, Wiseau responds, “I think people should realize that playing football, without any gear, and a special big, huge field, it’s fun. So you can play football in tuxedos, you can play football three feet apart, and the idea is to have fun, so, I would recommend to anyone to try it.” As with most of his answers in this interview, it would make more sense if he looked drugged out of his mind, but he isn’t. My only conclusion can be that he recognized the camp value of the film and this interview functions as cult-cannon DVD fodder, rather than a serious attempt to justify the film.
There are too many bad scenes to discuss them all here. The disjointed nature of time figures strongly in my mind, as many scenes take place at night, and then there is no segue between dialogue in one room at night and the continuation of the conversation in another room that takes place in full daylight. Likewise, new characters are introduced at regular intervals, and then completely dropped from the film. There no fewer than six or seven subplots, introduced and dropped in a similar fashion. Here is a subplot with the supposedly lovable (read creepy voyeur) moppet Denny, and his neighborhood drug dealer ***warning, NSFW***:
Ultimately, the torpedo in this film’s side is the framing and/or genre. If this were presented on Cinemax at 1:00am as a nudity-delivery system, it would make sense. If it were presented as an extended YouTube parody, it would make sense. As a feature film, taken seriously, it is mind boggling. The crisis of the critic is to accept and evaluate it for what it is (an amateur grade, poorly directed and written trash ball), or admire it for what it might be (the most brilliantly bad film ever made).
In any case, I almost don’t feel like I can critique something so bad. However, when something is bad, even if it is awesomely bad, I’m not above judging it.
By the way, I love getting suggestions for films to watch, so please comment or recommend films on Twitter or Facebook. If I can get it on Netflix, I will watch it and review it on my blog!
- Rear Window (1954)
- Mrs. Dalloway (1997)