Friday, November 24, 2017

A Movie I'm Thankful For: THE ROOM

by Adam Riske
A very silly movie that came along at a time I needed a very silly movie.

Back in the summer of 2009, I was watching just about every movie that showed up on the Music Box Theatre schedule. It was my mini film school that I did mostly at home. I saw a movie called The Room listed as part of their midnight series, got curious because I had never heard of it, and watched the movie’s trailer. It was very strange and extremely funny. I was a bit younger then and more primed for all things ironic. This looked like it would hit that sweet spot, so I planned to see The Room as a midnight show later that summer. In the following weeks, I had a health scare. It turned out to be a benign mass on my thyroid gland that needed to be removed through surgery. I had the surgery and recuperated for about a week. Everything was fine by early September, but throughout the whole summer I was going through periods of anxiety (doctor noticing my glands were swollen, getting a biopsy, not knowing if it was benign until getting the biopsy results back, scheduling surgery, etc.) and with my depression default, I assumed the worst if for no other reason than to prepare myself for what might be ahead of me. During this time, my running joke, my source of my levity, was often The Room.
I caught that midnight show at the Music Box Theatre with a friend in late July. This was around the time when I had not yet gotten the biopsy, so I was at my most worried. For two hours or so, I was transported by the goofiness of The Room and my problems didn’t matter. This was early in the midnight run of The Room in Chicago (before it really found its footing as a participatory experience) and it was a joy to sit in a theater full of hundreds of other novice viewers and experience its craziness together. It was a surreal experience, mostly because of the energy that built and built in the theater during the film’s duration; by the end, it was like being with an audience on opening weekend for Home Alone. It was that joyful. The only drawback to watching it this way was that I missed many of the laugh lines/funny moments that I didn’t discover until I bought the DVD and watched it at home shortly thereafter. Following that, I watched The Room multiple times with new groups of friends, where it never disappointed, and I twisted my parents’ arms to watch it with me the night before I went into surgery. It made us feel better. This is why I have an emotional attachment to The Room. It’s a movie I’m thankful for because the prevailing thought I had in my head during the summer of 2009 as I watched it was that no matter how bad my situation was, it was nowhere as bad as the character Johnny’s (Tommy Wiseau) in The Room. He was like a martyr for me.

I’ve seen The Room probably twenty times since then. A couple of these viewings were with writer-director-star Tommy Wiseau in person. He’s very nice to his fans. My experiences with him were great. The first time I met him was the most memorable. To those of you who have seen The Room, you remember the drug dealer named Chris R. right? I always wondered why he was named Chris R. Why not just call him Chris? So, as I super nervously met Tommy Wiseau for the first time, I asked him if the R stood for anything. He said “Of course it stands for something. Just like your name is Adam and my name is TAHMEEE.” He then asked me and five other people if we wanted to go outside in the snow and throw a football around. I went and he directed us to run in a circle with him while we randomly tossed the ball to each other as we stood four feet apart (I’m the guy in the middle of the photo). Every time someone threw the ball to Tommy, he dropped it. Often it went into the street and a car would have to stop so one of us could go get it. This remains my favorite celebrity encounter I’ve ever had. I was aware I was part probably a part of a performance artist/hipster joke, but Wiseau has always been nice and that’s what counts to me. He never is mean to his fans, or, if he is, it’s so goofy that you know it’s harmless. That sense of inclusiveness to the comedy in The Room is what keeps me going back to it. I think it will age well for that reason.
Now felt like a good time to write about The Room, not only because it’s a movie I’m thankful for but also since James Franco’s film The Disaster Artist (about the making of The Room, based off the book of the same name written by co-star of The Room, Greg Sestero) is coming out in a couple of weeks. I am beyond excited about seeing it after hearing the early reviews and seeing the trailers. Franco looks so funny as Wiseau. He nails the speech and mannerisms where what Wiseau says is funny not because it’s funny, but more so the cadence of how he says it. Want to hear something ironic? The movie I watched before being discharged from my post-surgery overnight stay in the hospital was City by the Sea (you’re fine) starring Robert De Niro and (guess who?) James Franco. That’s a weird coincidence, huh?

To close out, here are few of my favorite moments/aspects of The Room today. I don’t laugh as much or as hard at most of the film’s signature moments because I’m so used to them, but there’s still a bunch of things that still get to me.
1. The comically long and frequent sex scenes that just so happen to be set to amazing “makin’ babies” music. If you haven’t listened to “You’re My Rose,” “Baby You and Me,” “Crazy,” and “I Will,” before do it right now. They’re the most professional aspect of this entire film and beautiful love songs I unironically love.

2. Lisa’s (Juliette Danielle) mother, played by Carolyn Minnott, makes me laugh every time when she says “If you think I’m tired today, wait till you see me tomorrow.” I also always laugh I hear Tommy Wiseau ask Lisa “Do you understand life? Do you?!!!”

3. The actress who played Lisa’s friend Michelle (Robyn Paris) is so pretty/my type it’s not even fair. #AvianLookingWomenAreAWeaknessOfMine

4. No one in the movie says “fiancĂ©e” but instead “my future wife” or “my future husband.”

5. I love this film’s passion. Wiseau said that it was inspired partly by his love for Tennessee Williams and this plays like the best-ever parody of those melodramas. I always enjoy how irritated everyone seems with each other in this movie. It always makes me laugh. More poignantly, I do think the movie nails the point of view of a man who loves a woman so much that her betrayal makes him super vulnerable and pathetic. I’ve been there before, though not to this extent, of course. The raw nerve aspect of Wiseau’s performance in those scenes is a little heartbreaking to me – and very funny.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!


  1. This review makes me happy. I also can’t wait for the disaster artist Adam!

    1. My reviews are great when I can get it. How's your sex life?

  2. Writing about The Room - good thinking!

    1. You were right. The computer business is too competitive.