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Reveling in another man's failure -- how creepy is that?

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When is good fun just plain mean?

The event of the month in Chicago for fans of really bad movies was the midnight screening last weekend of a new cult classic, "The Room," at the Music Box theater.

"The Room" is a "freakish mesh of incompetencies," in the words of Sun-Times film critic Bill Stamets. It's the unintended joke of a strange dude with an indecipherable accent, Tommy Wiseau, who is the film's producer, writer, director and star -- or, as he has described his character -- "the stud."

"The Room, first screened in Los Angeles in 2003, originally was billed as a serious film about a bank employee, Johnny, who is betrayed by his girlfriend and his best friend. But when critics mocked the movie, Wiseau and his marketing team repositioned it as an intentional "black comedy." It's not. It's just one of the worst commercially-released films ever, with wooden dialogue, horrible acting, plot lines that go nowhere and characters that come and go.

Now "The Room" is playing the midnight theater circuit, like "The Rocky Horror Show" and even "The Sound of Music," where the whole point for the audience is to openly mock and jeer what's up on the screen.

This can be fun when the film is "The Rocky Horror Show," which is supposed to be campy and silly, or when it's "The Sound of Music," a big fat corporate blockbuster with a celebrated soundtrack and plenty of sincere fans, even if the film hasn't aged especially well.

But "The Room"? Here we have something different. Here we have a small-budget film by a would-be serious artist, Wiseau, who honestly believed (and may still believe) that he had created something not just good, but profound. And when we, the fans of bad movies, showed up at the Music Box last weekend to revel in its incompetence, we actually were reveling in Wiseau's incompetence.

Which does not make me proud.

Adding to my squeamishness (I soon was sliding down in my eighth-row seat), Tommy Wiseau was there in person. He deflected the audience's mocking questions ("Tommy, why are you characters wearing tuxedos when they play football?") with a strangely misplaced laugh and a string of passive-aggressive non-answers (such as, to paraphrase: "Read the papers. There's your answer.")

Granted, Wiseau's making money on the movie, if not for any reason he intended. And he's semi-famous now, which seemed to delight him.

He reminded me of Rod Blagojevich -- happy to be famous, even if only for screwing up so publicly.

How sad for him.

And how sad for all of those snarky anti-fans, myself included for a night, who turn out to revel in his failure.

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11 Comments

He's reveling in it, also.

WAH WAH WAH. The movie is terrible yet it found success. How sad for everyone? Are you kidding? Considering how bad The Room is, the fact that we can all find joy out of it is wonderful. Even Wiseau seems to be enjoying it, considering he flies back and forth from LA to Chicago (at least, that I know of) EVERY MONTH.

You're a douche who would rather patronize someone than make fun to their face like a man.

There's a great interview the A.V. Club did with Tommy, and he said that if the movie brings someone some kind of joy, he doesn't care. Sure, it may not be what he intended, but it gives him a sense of accomplishment. Good for him. There are better directors that wouldn't take it as well as he does. That's professional.

Tommy Wiseau is sort of a weird reverse stand up comic: instead of getting up there and telling jokes to make you laugh, he puts his movie on the screen and you, the audience, provide the jokes to make yourselves laugh.

And he's been doing this for going on seven years now, so please don't feel sorry for him, especially if he is making money on this.

Also the fact that he never gives a straight answer to simple questions - like where he is from - is very odd and more than a bit creepy.

I was also immensely squeamish, having attended out of curiosity, even if he did seem to enjoy himself. The open mockery of his attire, though, crossed the line in my opinion, and I was happy that he threw it right back at people.

Char-char, it's a logical fallacy to blame the writer for an opinion. The only d-bags I saw were the same ones who asked stupid questions in high school and college.

If other directors don't take it as well when their movies fail maybe that's because they think their movies had something to say.

Wiseau himself has kept the film in circulation. He could've withdrawn it. And his personal appearances strongly suggest he's okay with whatever reaction it's getting. If the film were somehow being continually presented against his wishes, that'd be one thing, or if we were picking on, say, a short film by an 11-year-old, it'd be different. (The video of the overweight kid doing light saber moves that found its way onto youtube--which was not, as far as I know, posted by him or with his permission--would be one such example.)

Indeeed, better directors wouldn't show up to bask in the 'glory.' I call it delusional.

I was at one of the screenings of The Room this past Friday. I laughed along with everybody else, threw plastic spoons at the screen and tried to figure out what the hell Tommy Wiseau was talking about when he "answered" audience questions. (He also took a guy up on stage to sing Happy Birthday to him, and ended up flipping the poor kid for some reason.)

I don't feel bad one bit. The guy is making more money now, promoting this god-awful film, than he would have been if it disappeared into obscurity. He had a HUGE line of people waiting just to get his autograph and get a picture with him. He had tons of fans dying to toss a football around with him.

There are two possibilities here: One is that he is an evil genius, who is fully aware that this film is the worst thing ever, and he's taking full advantage of the fact that people love to laugh at it. The other is that he's delightfully clueless and actually believes that people love his film. Either way, good for him! He is getting recognized like a [D-List] celebrity and laughing all the way to the bank. (And using his piles of money to buy some sort of illicit substance, because the dude was GONE when I met him.)

You really need to have lived in Los Angeles as I have and do to understand people like Wiseau, the countless hoard of ambitious yet talentless moths who are drawn to the flame of entertainment & celebrity each year. By car and plane, they arrive by the thousands convinced that they have "it" either in spite of what others have said or (worse) their delusions helped by otherwise well-meaning acquaintances.

Invariably, their horse-before-cart journey started when they wanted the acclaim and rewards before actually having a talent to supply it. In any other town but LA and perhaps New York, their "careers" would end as quickly as mine if I opened a medical practice (without the required training). Wiseau is that guy who sits next to you at the Flying Saucer talking about how he has this "million dollar idea" or how his band will start touring any day now.

Unfortunately, there have been just enough success-against-all-odds stories in showbiz to continually encourage the sad sacks like Wiseau. At least, in his case, Wiseau seems in on the Grand Joke of the entire endeavor and accepts his level of "success." There are all the others who will remain clueless and waste away what could have been a fulfilling life. Or gotten the help they clearly need.

But if a theater full of snarky twentysomethings can laugh at them for one night, it's worth it, right?

The Room hasn't won an Oscar or changed any of its fans' lives, but so what? Does every film really have to do that?

The Room has not brung joy to its fans for the reasons Tommy Wiseau originally intended, but it has brought laughter and fun into many lives nonetheless, and you can't fault the man for that. The fact that he was dead serious about the project and expected to become the next Brad Pitt adds a background to the experience that enhances the humour of it all. It's a win-win situation for all who are willing to lower their standards for a couple of hours and enjoy the film for what it is.

P.S. Watch it stoned.

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This page contains a single entry by Tom McNamee published on February 16, 2010 1:57 PM.

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