The Room: Three theories to explain this movie
Welcome to a new column called Geek Speak, in which we take on an aspect of geek culture each week.
Greg Sestero (front) and Tommy Wiseau invite you to explore The Room
There is nothing quite like The Room. It's one of a handful of movies considered "the worst movie ever" that has somehow managed to find an enduring audience. For those who haven't seen it, the film can be hard to explain. In essence, it's a fairly tame relationship drama with a misanthropic outlook. Nice guy has girl, girl cheats with nice guy's best friend, it all comes apart at the seams. Pretty standard stuff, in theory. Yet in practice, The Room is so, so much more. More than a movie, The Room is a disorienting, unsettling experience, made up of bizarre non sequiturs, narrative red herrings and the occasional dip into surreal inanity. Characters appear and disappear seemingly without rhyme or reason. Subplots emerge, like a shark's fin breaking water, only to disappear again without a trace, leaving you wondering if they're simply waiting down there for a chance to bite you. Nothing makes much sense -- but somehow, you can't look away. While watching The Room, it's not unusual to feel as if you've been lightly drugged, or perhaps suffered a moderate head injury. Maybe both.
Despite all this -- or perhaps because of it -- The Room is tremendously entertaining and stays that way through many, many viewings. I've watched The Room close to a dozen times. And nearly every time, one question races through my mind continuously, demanding a response: "What the fuck is this movie's deal?"
How did it come to be, why is it the way it is and, seriously, what the fucking fuck? Over the years, I've spent an undue amount of time, both while watching the movie and while doing other, ostensibly non-Room related activities, searching for an answer to this question. Over that time, I've come up with a number of theories to explain The Room. Today, I'm going to share three of my favorites.
The Tax Shelter
Wiseau is notoriously reluctant to share details of his past, including where he got the money to finance the making and marketing of The Room. Beyond some vague references to a leather jacket business, he's never explained how he came up with the reported $6 million it cost. Since I'm a fan of crime dramas like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, the thought naturally occurred to me that The Room, like the Hitler musical in The Producers, was simply a way to launder/hide a bunch of cash. Wiseau, with his weird East European accent and shadowy background, is obviously a member, probably a low- ranking member, of some crime family, chosen to lead the project because of his ambitions to act and direct. They do some shady invoicing and sleight of hand with the budget and somehow profit off of it.
This explains how the film gets made and maybe how Wiseau has managed to coast on its almost certainly meager earnings for a decade -- seriously, how much can he make off of a few hundred midnight showings every year -- including two in Denver this weekend -- but not so much why it is so strange and delightful. After all, lots of incompetent, unqualified people make movies (see anything that's come out of Happy Madison Productions in the past decade), but not many of them turn out so damn weird and wonderful.
Clearly this theory, while attractive as a plausible explanation of how, fails to get at the bigger question of why. On to the next theory, then...