Back in 2003, the world was gifted with The Room; a movie that embodies the ‘so bad, it’s good’ genre. Reviews of the film include such golden lines as “This film is like getting stabbed in the head”, and the movie has been dubbed the ‘Citizen Kane of Bad Movies’.
Anyone who has seen The Room can absolutely understand why; the actors stumble their way through poorly-written dialogue, plot points are introduced and then never discussed again, and the apartment set is, for some reason, filled with framed pictures of spoons.
It’s pretty understandable why Tom Bissell, who co-wrote The Disaster Artist with Room star Greg Sestero, describes the film as being like “a movie made by an alien who has never seen a movie but has had movies thoroughly explained to him”.
Despite being such an objectively terrible movie, The Room has gathered a colossal cult following. What began as a Hollywood in-joke now has midnight screenings across the globe. Since the movie’s initial box-office result of $1,900 (from a $6,000,000 budget), The Room now boasts sold-out viewings and an extensive merchandise line. A film adaptation of The Room’s production has even been made, starring such big names as James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Zac Efron.
The Room is far more than an ironic cult movie. It’s successes, and the story of its creation, are examples of a modern American dream.
The Man Himself
The Room is essentially one-man’s vanity project. Tommy Wiseau is credited during the film’s opening sequence as writer, director, producer, and star. According to The Disaster Artist book, Wiseau single-handedly funded the movie’s enormous six-million-dollar budget, orchestrated and re-wrote scenes on the go, and even paid $5,000 a month for 5 years (a total of $300,000) to keep a billboard up over Los Angeles.
Exactly how he was able to afford such massive fees, however, remains a mystery. In fact, almost everything about Tommy Wiseau is a mystery. Only last year was it discovered that he (likely) hails from Poland, and came to America at some point before moving to California. Even his age remains unclear.
What is known is that Wiseau set out to make a cinematic masterpiece along the lines of A Streetcar Named Desire, and that he appears to believe he’s done it. Despite the films reputation as one of the worst films ever made, Wiseau apparently still believes he has created a modern American gem.
To be honest, he might not be wrong.
An Unexpectedly Inspirational Tale
The story of The Room reads much like the traditional American dream story – with a twist. A European immigrant comes to the States in search of realising his dream of becoming an actor. Somehow, he earns enough money to live comfortably in San Francisco, attend acting lessons, and eventually produce and star in his own film. The classic underdog success story.
Of course, Wiseau’s movie didn’t achieve success the way he envisioned it; I don’t think anyone is viewing The Room as the serious Tennessee Williams-esque drama he sought to create.
Nonetheless, The Room has undoubtedly brought joy to thousands of people. Wiseau and his co-stars are revered as celebrities at the midnight screenings that continue to sell out 14 years after the film’s release. Wiseau has created a piece of pop-culture and become a cult icon in his own right.
Wiseau has unintentionally become one of the strangest inspirational figures of the 21st century. Despite having little talent for acting or filmmaking, he achieved his dream through sheer self-determination. He may even achieve his dream of winning an Oscar, as The Disaster Artist movie is being penned by some as a potential candidate for next year’s awards.
The Room is far, far more than a bad movie – it’s proof that the American dream is alive and well. Wiseau himself personifies the ‘if you want it, go get it’ attitude of the old United States.