The Room and film clichés

I recently saw the film The Room (2003). This is a film that got brutally panned in reviews and I watched it fully expecting it would be terrible. Why subject myself to such a waste of time? Because it belongs in that rare category of films that are so bad that they are good. As one person said, The Room is the Citizen Kane of bad films, so awful that it has developed a cult following, with special midnight screenings for the faithful who anticipate every scene, throwing plastic spoons and footballs at appropriate moments, and yelling out key pieces of dialogue.

Most ordinary bad films are bad because they are the work of a group of people who could not quite get their act together, with the writers, actors, and director either not agreeing on the vision or with one or more key people putting in a subpar performance. The really great bad films are usually the result of a single person with a vision that is badly flawed, combined with ineptitude. In this case, that person is Tommy Wiseau who is the writer, director, producer, and star and who, as far anyone can tell about this person with a somewhat mysterious past, had never made a film before or even acted in one.

Film making involves a lot of conventions that we do not notice (if done well) but are essential in enabling the viewer to follow the film without being explicitly told what is going on. For example, a shot of a character gazing intently at something is usually followed by one that shows what he was looking at. If you are shown the exterior of a building followed by shot of a room, we are justified in assuming that the room is inside the building. And so on. Wiseau violates cinematic conventions at every turn. Characters appear that do not have any backstory and then disappear without explanation, plotlines are introduced and dropped, events are foreshadowed that don’t materialize, scenes inside the small apartment are interspersed for no apparent reason by random scenic views of San Francisco (the Golden Gate bridge should receive credit simply for the amount of screen time it gets), the dialogue is painful, the acting is either wooden or overwrought, and there is lack of continuity in the storyline.

For example, we are told repeatedly that Wiseau and his fiancé are going to get married in a month. Then late in the film, Wiseau and three friends appear in tuxedos and Wiseau is profusely complimented on his appearance, suggesting that this is his wedding day. They then go into an alleyway and throw a football around (throwing a football around in confined spaces is a recurring theme) until one of them falls down. The film then continues with everyone in regular clothes and it turns out that the wedding is still a month away and no explanation is given for the mysterious tuxedo scene.

At the end, Wiseau gets really upset (ostensibly by his girl friend’s betrayal but perhaps because he realizes his film is a disaster) and sets about systematically trashing his apartment. He sweeps everything off the mantelpiece, breaks glasses, throws things at the mirror, flings his TV through a window, overturns furniture, empties the contents of dresser drawers, etc. As I watched it, I realized that I have seen this film cliché many times and it made me wonder: Do people in real life do this? I am not talking about bad boy rock musicians or other celebrities who trash their hotel or dressing rooms under the influence of drugs or because that has become something they think is expected of them and gets them publicity. I am talking about people who trash the places where they actually live because they are angry or upset.

I know that I wouldn’t because, at the very least, I would have to clean up the mess afterwards and go to all the trouble and expense of replacing the things I broke. It all seems so pointless. Is this kind of tantrum something that happens only in films? Do the readers of this blog personally know any ordinary person who has ever done something like that, or even just thrown a glass at someone or into the fireplace, another popular cliché?

So watching The Room at least prompted in me one serious question, so it was not a total waste of time.

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