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Tag Archives: Irony
The Room has quickly become one of my favorite movies. I cannot, and could not, begin to call it a good film, but it is enjoyably and transcendently inept. The movie’s premise is a love triangle between Johnny, a well-meaning banker, Lisa, his fiancée, and Mark, his best friend. But that basic description does not begin to capture all that is The Room.
The internet has exhaustively documented the film’s numerous flaws and the insanity going on behind the scenes, but in brief, Tommy Wiseau, the film’s writer, director, star, and overall creative visionary, produced the perfect storm of terrible movies. The writing is embarrassing; the acting is weak and wooden, and the dialogue is quotable for all the wrong reasons. Plots are picked up and dropped seemingly at random; characters emerge and disappear for no reason, and the film is so poorly directed and edited that it could be considered avant-garde if people believed it were a deliberate departure from the norm.
I’ve watched this unintentional masterpiece five times. I have shared it with my fiancée, with my parents, and with multiple groups of friends, because it’s one of the movies that just has to be seen to be believed. It’s the type of film that you would never expect to actually come to fruition. Its vision is too singular. Making a movie involves too much effort from too many people for one individual to be able to create something so unique and so awful. In short, The Room is a cinematic train wreck that is as breathtaking as it is bewildering.
But recently, a comment about the movie’s questionable notoriety gave me pause. Greg Sestero, one of the film’s “stars,” is writing a new book about the film. In an article about the book’s release, one online commenter complained about Sestero capitalizing on Wiseau and the movie’s infamy, arguing that,“at some point it feels like he’s exploiting a man who’s not all there.” It made me wonder if there’s something wrong about the joy I derive from The Room.
Classic films tend to evoke a decidedly mixed response from me at first blush. On the one hand, I’m drawn to them. I find myself enticed to not only find out what all the fuss is about, but to consume one more piece of our national zeitgeist. Seeing a film that’s as sewn into fabric of our popular culture as It’s a Wonderful Life gives me a connection both to the scores of other people who’ve seen the film and to the America that only exists in Norman Rockwell paintings.
That connection creates a yearning for an idyllic past that never existed beyond the original celluloid. It’s perpetuated annually as families gather ’round for another holiday rebroadcast. I don’t mean this as a knock against the film. In harmony with the story of the movie itself, the viewer can see something that might have been, but never was, and use it to gain a bit of perspective. It creates a connection to the myriad individuals who find themselves reaching for that same popular myth — real people united by a shared, imaginary reference point.
Despite this, and perhaps because of this, I also watch these films with an unavoidable air of skepticism. We live in an age that thrives on and revels in the slaughter of sacred cows. Irony, sarcasm, and cynicism are the order of the day, and I am hard-pressed to resist. I do my best to keep an open mind going into these movies, but there’s a part of me that invariably has to be tamped down — a part that’s perpetually prepared to ask, “what’s the big deal?”