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Mystery DVD #245 - There Are No Walls in the House of Jearl
June 24th, 2014
01:19 pm

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Mystery DVD #245
The Room
Uninhibited by cinematic convention, this quirky cult favorite about lust and duplicity delivers nonstop laughs from beginning to end as the film's central character (writer-director Tommy Wiseau) discovers that his foxy fiancée, Lisa (Juliette Danielle), is bedding his best friend. Adding to the hilarity are Greg Sestero, who plays the backstabbing buddy, and Carolyn Minnott as Lisa's materialistic mom.

There is so much pure agony packed into that blurb, but they tried. They tried to help. "Uninhibited by cinematic convention" is the most shameless euphemism I have seen in many years. But the pain shows through. "Quirky cult favorite" is blurbwriter code for "Run! run away! they have my family..." I feel bad about what is about to take place here criticism-wise. Surely all of this has already been said about this poor benighted artifact. It's so sincere.

Establishing shots place our story in San Francisco. Johnny (Wiseau) arrives home from his work at the bank, where, going by his metal-band hair and boxlike suit, he is employed as a leg breaker. He greets his fiancee, Lisa, and offers her a gift of a classy red dress, which she models for him and a creepy neighbor kid, Denny,and then they go up to the bedroom and bang -- just Johnny and Lisa, I mean, they have to insist that Denny leave first, he is seriously boundary-impaired. Tommy Wiseau is proud of his bottom and really wants you to see it. It is a little craggy, I don't know, I'm not trying to judge. I had to look at this butt for longer than I would have freely chosen. There are several boringly tasteful and passion-free sex scenes that are just there in the movie like coffee-table books. No one is really into it but the bedroom would seem so empty without someone getting it on in a pile of rose petals. It's for the feng shui.

You hardly see Lisa out of the apartment. It's like she's under house arrest. Later her mother visits for a chat and she confides that she doesn't love Johnny anymore. Mother insists she reconsider what her heart wants, because Johnny is a good man and will keep her in nice things. Here is where I would start to complain about these characters making bad choices or needing to respect themselves and one another or whatever, but it's not the characters' fault they're in this weird, bloodless exercise. Lisa's feelings, Johnny's feelings -- it's all told and not shown. They're like symbols of people instead of people.

But we're here, and there's over an hour left to go, so I will continue to read stuff in that isn't there. Bored and alone in her dimly lit gilded cage, Lisa calls up Johnny's best friend Mark, and suggests they start an affair behind Johnny's back. He is appalled by the suggestion but she "talks him into it," in that she repeats several times that she wants him, and then he comes over so she can repeat it a few more times with sultry eyes, and then they bang. It's like super-advanced robots from the future made this movie, like they had just won a revolution over whether to feel feelings, and here they are trying to feel feelings like love and lust and betrayal, and they just don't know how. This gratuitous not-exactly-cuckolding scene is so dull I wished they would project another movie on Mark's perfectly hairless back as he mimes fucking Lisa. A cartoon or something. Or an anime -- Ghost in the Shell would have been good.

At this point my notes read "Can this devolve into murder soon?" But no. Johnny comes home frustrated at being denied a promotion, getting my hopes up by spitting "Everyone betrays me!" but violence has yet to break out. Lisa gets Johnny drunk so that she can start gaslighting him, starting with spreading a rumor that he hits her. Just break up with him, Lisa, what is your freaking problem? Mother still disapproves. Two of their friends come in while the apartment is empty and make out on the couch, I have no idea what the hell that's about. I guess one more way to establish that everyone treats Johnny like shit and he takes it with a smile. He is basically Craggy-Butt Jesus. Look, he's putting this creepy street urchin who likes to ogle his fiancee through school and the kid still gets mixed up in drugs, basically so everyone can yell at him a bit and act concerned. Oh, and so Johnny can end up with the drug dealer's handgun after he disarms him with his bare hands, because he's just that awesome. Mark is there too but he's totally evil by this point, he was probably not even helping. Meanwhile Lisa is planning Johnny's birthday party while crushing his hopes and feelings hour by hour.

That's all, really. People talking, people being awful, people inexplicably throwing footballs short distances. It's hard to go on. Just know that Johnny can only take so much, and boy will they be sorry when he's gone. So very sorry.

I felt so wrong about expressing all this disappointment in Mr. Wiseau's act of creative passion and personal will, that I made myself watch the "Behind the Scenes" extra on the DVD, and dang. Usually these things make me more positively disposed towards a movie, because you see the cast and crew goofing around and having fun, but you'd think these people were building their own tombs. The Room is like the film version of the crumbling sphinx in "Ozymandias." Its emptiness is the dark mirror in which we confront our own.

Some folks made a role-playing game in loving homage: http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/547307. It's actually kind of fun.

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From:markm
Date:June 25th, 2014 11:52 am (UTC)
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Mark is there too but he's totally evil by this point

Man, I wish that were applicable to a better film.
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From:jearl
Date:June 25th, 2014 10:42 pm (UTC)
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He starts out lightly bearded, and his ultimate corruption at Lisa's hands is signified by a dramatic reveal that he has shaved. I always thought that was supposed to go the other way.
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From:boylawyer
Date:June 25th, 2014 08:00 pm (UTC)
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Okay, so, wow. That sounds so very terrible to have watched, and yet I'm such a bad person because I'm so glad that you watched it and presented this glorious review. I had to get up and walk around to catch my breath a bit I was laughing so hard.

It kind of sounds like this was a vanity project that Wiseau made just to show all his family and friends and then he could side-eye them to see if they got the subtle hint that it was really about them and how they needed to treat him better.

As an aside, has there ever been a quality movie that used the word "foxy" in its blurb?
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From:jearl
Date:June 25th, 2014 10:44 pm (UTC)
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Your amusement will salve my Room-related nightmares.

> As an aside, has there ever been a quality movie that used the word "foxy" in its blurb?
I would like to think there's some sweet cartoon about a fox family that would pass this test, but I can't search Netflix. :(
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From:boylawyer
Date:June 26th, 2014 03:29 pm (UTC)
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Always be careful about things that sound like challenges to the dreaded NA....
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From:elklad
Date:June 25th, 2014 11:53 pm (UTC)
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The game! I haven't played all that much of it, but it seems so very true to the movie. Horrifying yet oddly compelling.

Edited at 2014-06-25 11:53 pm (UTC)
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From:jearl
Date:July 1st, 2014 08:20 pm (UTC)
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Be sure to check Denny's diary every day!
From:coho29
Date:July 28th, 2014 05:18 pm (UTC)

That movie

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is now featured in an XKCD comic: http://xkcd.com/1400/
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