Hailed as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”, The Room first screened in 2003, and has since become something of a cult phenomenon. An amateurish psycho-drama devoid of stars, talent or anything resembling artistic merit, it continues to play to packed midnight crowds across the United States. Such is its enduring popularity that The Room has become the subject of a new film, The Disaster Artist, which stands as one of the year’s most hotly tipped awards contenders.
The Room tells the story of Johnny, a successful banker in San Francisco, whose fiancée gets cold feet and seduces his best friend, Mark. Aspiring to be an erotically charged drama in the vein of Tennessee Williams, the film stumbles at every hurdle, blissfully unaware of its nonsensical plot, woeful performances and complete lack of cinematic competency.
Tommy Wiseau, The Room’s lumbering lank-haired lead, also serves as the film’s writer, producer, director and primary investor. Claiming to have been in his 20s and to hail from New Orleans, on-screen Wiseau is clearly in his mid-40s and speaks with a thick East European drawl that accentuates his uniquely inaccurate command of English.
The origin of the film’s financing remains a mystery, but Wiseau poured more than US$6 million into realising his dream of becoming a Hollywood star. Once The Room was complete, he again shelled out to keep the film playing in one Los Angeles cinema long enough to ensure it qualified for the Academy Awards.
The Room, cult 2003 film so bad it’s good, gets wide release in US cinemas at last thanks to James Franco’s making-of movie
Soon, ironic movie-goers searching for their next so-bad-it’s-good hit began to take notice and Wiseau’s sincere attempt at (largely autobiographical) drama became the must-see movie on LA’s midnight circuit. To this day, gleeful audiences recite the risible dialogue along with the actors, interacting with the film as fans have with the likes of Showgirls (1995) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
In 2013, Greg Sestero, who played Mark, published The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made together with journalist Tom Bissell. Their no-holds-barred account of the production, and Sestero’s relationship with Wiseau, has now been adapted into the film The Disaster Artist, written, produced, directed by and starring Oscar-nominee James Franco as Wiseau.
As the film garners rave reviews, particularly for Franco’s affectionate and hilarious portrayal of its baffling, talentless hero, The Room has re-entered the film-going conversation, its doors held open for a new generation of fans to marvel at its misguided majesty. And now with this cult classic arriving in Hong Kong for a few special screenings, audiences here can finally join in the fun and throw their (plastic) spoons at the screen. Oh, hi, Mark.
The Room will be screened on January 12 at the Grand Ocean cinema, in Tsim Sha Tsui, and will go on limited release at Broadway Cinematheque, in Yau Ma Tei, from January 13; for ticketing information, visit www.facebook.com/theroominhk . The Disaster Artist opens on January 11.