If You Dare

Is 'The Room' the worst movie ever, or a masterpiece?

‘Tis not folly to be Wiseau. Tommy Wiseau, star and director of The Room, is the man behind the cult film that, in some cities, has played for two or four or even 10 years.

The Room is an unusual movie. It’s mumblecore and melodrama wrapped into one big burrito. It’s a love story in a cinematic culture that pigeonholes such films as chick flicks. On April 25, it finally makes its way to Santa Rosa as part of the Roxy Theater’s weekly cult film series, which in the last seven months has brought fan favorites like Creepshow, Evil Dead, My Bloody Valentine, Troll 2 and dozens of others in popular double features every Thursday.

Local improv troupe Opposing Media will riff on the movie, MST3K-style, during the screening, and they’ll have plenty of source material. Like Troll 2, The Room is routinely cited as one of the worst movies of all time. And—by “Roomies”—one of the best.

“What people don’t understand,” says Santa Cruz filmmaker Jesse Goldsmith, “is that The Room isn’t a bad movie at all. The Room is a masterpiece. Really. One of the few essential San Francisco movies since Vertigo.”

Considering Wiseau’s international promotional tours, CNN interviews and a choice line-drop on The Simpsons (“Lisa, you’re tearing me apart!”), he must have done something right. Loosely, The Room is the story of a brooding, long-haired and heavily accented man savaged by romantic betrayal in San Francisco.

“It was a movie made by design,” Wiseau explains by phone from Los Angeles. “I spent a lot of money to create this little baby. As a filmmaker, the more colors you use, the better; the more details, the better. The elements of the story—the drugs; two are better than three; three’s a crowd—all this stuff is based on life and the interaction between humans.”

The 10th-anniversary edition of The Room on Blu-Ray includes new documentary footage that Wiseau says proves that there was a method to his romantic madness. Wiseau’s source was his own 800-page novel, which he then shortened into a play—and then a film script. (The source book may be published soon.)

The origin of the film’s cult status can be traced to an Oscar-qualifying Los Angeles screening in a theater where the only available slot was late at night. Wiseau purchased a billboard (“With good traffic—it wasn’t cheap”) to promote the screening. Thanks to word of mouth, the film drew a crowd. Wiseau ended up extending the billboard contract for five years.

The Room‘s fame has even changed the opinions of people who worked on it. “After 10 years,” Wiseau relates happily, “I’m running into people who quit the film who now want credit on it.”

‘The Room’ screens in a double feature with ‘The Big Lebowski’ on Thursday, April 25, at the Roxy Theater. 85 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa. 7pm. $10. 707.522.0330.

Sonoma County Library