James Franco delivers his Disaster-pièce de résistance

James Franco delivers his Disaster-pièce de résistance

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Six things about The Room that make it the best worst movie ever

We’ve all suffered through a truly terrible movie.

We’ve all yelled at the screen, thrown up our hands in disgust or simply sat there, dumbfounded as to how such a film ever got made.

But, sometimes, there’s that rare movie that is so bad, so unbelievably and unapologetically incompetent, that you simply get swept up by its steadfast determination to exist and to entertain, and you can’t turn away or turn it off. You just bask in its godawful glory and wait to see what fresh hell will stumble across the screen next.

If those movies had a king, his name would be Tommy Wiseau, and he will forever hold that throne because of The Room.

Released on June 27, 2003, in a single theater, it is literally the best worst movie ever made, and here are six reasons why.

Let’s talk about sex

For the uninitiated (which up until two weeks ago included this writer), The Room is basically about sex and betrayal. And it’s not shy about putting the audience up close and personal for what are arguably the most awkward moments of queasy coitus ever committed to film.

We get to watch Johnny (Wiseau) and his fiancée Lisa (Juliette Danielle) have sex two or three times, but it’s mostly Johnny straddling Lisa with his bare ass exposed to the camera, thrusting without rhythm. Often, they pluck rose petals and throw them up in the air so they cascade down over their bodies.

If you’ve never felt sorry for an actress before while watching her engage in something that clearly appears uncomfortable, you will.

Three’s Company

One of the first scenes in the movie involves Johnny bringing Lisa a slinky red dress. As she’s modeling it for him, their neighbor Denny (Philip Haldiman) walks into their apartment. Denny is young, but the audience is never told how young beyond the fact that he’s in school. And he clearly has the hots for Lisa. Johnny tells Denny that he and Lisa have to go “talk,” which means get busy in the upstairs bedroom loft. Naturally, Denny follows, and he leaps onto the bed between the couple, prompting the most uncomfortable tickle and pillow fight you’ll likely ever witness. Then Johnny tells Denny that three is not company, but a crowd, and he must leave so Johnny can basically scrump Lisa.

It’s only much later in The Room that the audience is told Johnny wanted to adopt Denny, but couldn’t, so he pays for Denny to live in an apartment in their same building. Creeeeeeeepy.

The most disinterested man in the world

Greg Sestero, who plays Mark, was basically Wiseau’s only friend to encourage Wiseau to write The Room.

In the film, Mark is Johnny’s best friend. He’s also having an affair with Lisa. It’s a pretty pivotal role, which Sestero approaches with the emotional complexity of a sloth feeling extra lazy. When he and Lisa kiss, it’s like his mouth just hovers over hers as if it’s covering a hole to keep something trapped inside.

Immediately after they have sex for the first time, Mark whines to Lisa: “Why did you do that to me? Johnny’s my best friend!”

Later, after they’ve had sex again, Lisa calls Mark to say hello.

Lisa: I miss you.

Mark: I just saw you. What are you talking about?

“You are tearing me apart, Lisa!”

Wiseau’s screenplay plays like a greatest-hits compilation of the worst possible female qualities — if every woman was an oversexed, conniving and schizophrenic femme fatale.

Lisa loves Johnny, then she hates Johnny. She sleeps with his best friend, then she loves Johnny again. She gets him drunk, forces him to have sex, then tells everyone he beat her up.

With every scene, Lisa increasingly displays all the telltale signs of someone who should be institutionalized.

At one point, Lisa tells a friend: “I don’t love Johnny. I don’t even like him. I just had sex with someone else.”

Who doesn’t love football?

A recurring theme in The Room is the shared enthusiasm of the characters for passing a football around while they stand in a circle. Most people, when they pass a football, stand 20 or more yards apart. Not Johnny, Mark and Denny. They stand less than three feet apart, and often fail to pass it successfully over such a short distance. It’s the most ridiculous thing ever.

Director/writer/producer Tommy Wiseau

Wiseau is a man with no discernible age, who speaks with a thick accent yet claims he has no accent, whose droopy eyes barely register life, much less emotion.

This is a man who looks like the offspring of Tom Hiddleston (as Loki) and Corey Feldman.

This is a man who looks like the freak result of a genetic experiment where DNA from Willem Dafoe and Glenn Danzig was accidentally spliced together.

This is a man who wrote a scene depicting foreplay between Mark and Lisa where Lisa proceeds to stuff so many chocolates in Mark’s mouth at one time that he resembles a chipmunk after an all-day nut-gathering bender.

Yet, without Wiseau, The Room would just be another bargain-bin bad movie that no one ever watched or discussed.

click to enlarge Jason Franco (far right), as Tommy Wiseau, directs a scene from The Room while (from left) Kelly Oxford, Paul Scheer and Seth Rogen wait for magic to happen. - A24 Films
A24 Films
Jason Franco (far right), as Tommy Wiseau, directs a scene from The Room while (from left) Kelly Oxford, Paul Scheer and Seth Rogen wait for magic to happen.

Hold on to your football, America — Tommy Wiseau could finally make it to the Academy Awards.

The fact that this curious enigma might possibly attend the prestigious ceremony in March 2018 — not because of his talent, but because of his unbelievable lack thereof — is just further proof that Hollywood dreams can come true.

Wiseau is the man who wrote, produced and directed 2003’s The Room, which has gained a sizable cult following in the past 14 years and is widely considered to be the best worst movie ever made.

The Disaster Artist, directed by and starring James Franco as Wiseau and featuring Franco's brother Dave as Wiseau’s best friend Greg Sestero, documents how that notoriously awful film was made.

It’s an often fantastic, thoroughly hysterical dissection of the line that separates ambition and talent, and Franco should be a dark-horse favorite to be nominated in at least three categories: Best Actor, Best Director and Best Picture. The film, based on Sestero’s book about his friendship with Wiseau and experience filming The Room, details how the two men met in San Francisco in the late 1990s at an acting class. Sestero was barely out of high school at the time.

The Franco brothers are magnetic in their respective roles,  with Dave encapsulating the hopeful optimism of a young man who dreams of stardom. Taking method to a whole new level, James virtually disappears into his character, expertly nailing Wiseau’s thick accent of unknown origin, his off-putting cadence, his odd giggle and his seeming inability to look anyone in the eye.

A running gag throughout the film is Wiseau’s refusal to ever say how old he is, where he was born or how he came to possess enough money to maintain apartments in both Los Angeles and San Francisco — or personally finance the millions he spent making The Room. As Wiseau, Franco tells everyone he is from the bayous of New Orleans, and when asked his age, he simply repeats back the age of whoever he is speaking to, regardless of whether the person is 18 or mid-30s.

Franco paints Wiseau as a tortured artist, naïve as to his lack of knowledge of the film industry, who clings to Sestero’s friendship because Sestero is the only person willing to overlook his extremely eccentric behavior.

It's a marvelously entertaining story, but The Disaster Artist does miss a golden opportunity to provide any real insight into Wiseau’s thought process, or his inspiration for the film itself. The script glosses over the mountain of questions surrounding the real impetus for The Room, other than Wiseau wanting to create something in the vein of Tennessee Williams. Even the cast of the film is left to speculate what The Room is really about, whispering around the craft services table that Wiseau must have known versions of the characters he created — the conniving fiancée, the back-stabbing best friend, the young man he considered to be like a son.

Where The Disaster Artist excels, however, is in its own casting.

Seth Rogen and Paul Scheer shine as script supervisor Sandy Schklair and director of photography Raphael Smadja, respectively. Jacki Weaver and Josh Hutcherson, nearly unrecognizable in a purposefully bad wig, are a riot playing actors Carolyn Minnott and Philip Haldiman.

Then there’s the slew of cameos, including Sharon Stone as a cougar-ish talent agent, Melanie Griffith and Bob Odenkirk as acting coaches, Judd Apatow as a foul-mouthed producer and Bryan Cranston as himself.

Even Wiseau and Sestero make brief appearances playing minor characters.

The Disaster Artist is likely the best movie ever made about the making of a terrible film.

Even more, it stands as a beacon of hope for other aspiring filmmakers who, regardless of ability, might someday make their own mark on Hollywood, whether through fame or infamy.

click to enlarge The Disaster Artist proves anyone can make a movie. Whether that movie deserves to be made is up for debate. - A24 Films
A24 Films
The Disaster Artist proves anyone can make a movie. Whether that movie deserves to be made is up for debate.

The Disaster Artist

3.5 out of 5 stars.

R. 103 minutes

Directed by James Franco.

Starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Alison Brie and Paul Scheer.

Opens in Tampa Bay Dec. 7.

About The Author

John W. Allman

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films...
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