A second review requested by Jackie Theballcat, with thanks for contributing twice to the Second Quinquennial Antagony & Ecstasy ACS Fundraiser.

I would fear that nothing can be left to say about The Room, but then, is not The Room inexhaustible? I've seen it multiple in times in a number of wildly different contexts, and every time, it feels as completely new in every way as the first time I ever crossed its path. Few films, even the very worst of the worst of the worst, are so impossibly unfamiliar as this: it truly does not feel to have been constructed by artists who understood, at even the most basic level, what the inner lives of human beings are like. The number of movies that I have seen which are so divorced from the emotional reality of the human animal is small indeed; honestly, outside of Robot Monster, I'm not sure that I can think of anything that so thoroughly misses the mark in depicting even the most basic, fundamental behaviors conducted by flesh-and-blood people.

The film is both the severest attack against the implications of auteur theory, and an unusually strong proof of its validity. Simply put, there is nothing that happens in this film that did not come directly from the mind of Tommy Wiseau, who wrote, directed, produced, and starred in one of the most profoundly insular vanity projects ever created. Wiseau is a famously mysterious individual, having carefully hidden as much of his history as it's possible for a cultishly-loved filmmaker in the internet age; but The Room is a work that appears to have been carved out of the most secret corners of his very soul, revealing a deeply personal vision that it's hard not to ascribe to one very offbeat man, and even harder not to psychoanalyze. I cannot name any film, other than experiments made by individuals in the garage and such avant-garde things, which feels so completely the work of one solitary personality, with everybody else onsceen and off simply fulfilling his vision. And the results are, of course, sublimely terrible.

At heart, this is a tragic love story: Johnny (Wiseau) and Lisa (Juliette Danielle) are future husband and wife, living together in San Francisco. He adores her in the most passionate, lavish ways possible, but she's gotten bored with his attention and everything else about her life, and to stave off ennui has started flirting with Johnny's best friend Mark (Greg Sestero, also the film's line producer, and source of most of what we know about the film's production, thanks to his book The Disaster Artist). This disgusts and horrifies her mother (Carolyn Minnott), whose name is randomly revealed to be Claudette several scenes later, courtesy of a character who has no reason to be aware of it. Claudette considers that Johnny is so sweet and loving, more than willing to take care of Lisa emotionally and provide for her materially, possessed of a kindness uncommon among men, and altogether so rare a catch that Lisa is just the most absolutely worst for even thinking about leaving him for his best friend Mark. Lisa, for her part, oscillates between agreeing with this, in a grasping way stripped of any affection, and finding her future husband so unappealing and Johnny's best friend Mark so sexy and smoldering that she's willing to junk her entire future.

I warned that it's a little too tempting to psychoanalyze Wiseau, and this is the thing I'm primarily talking about: once you've carved out all of the inscrutable dead ends and leave just the driving conflict of The Room, you have the story of a man that everybody thinks is just the best, who is kind to his future wife and gives her everything she could want to have, and yet she decides not to bother with him, even knowing that it means that every other character tells her to her face that she's a terrible person as a result. This is a pervasive theme, presented with over-the-top earnestness, particularly in the scene where Claudette just will not fucking shut up about how great Johnny is, and I can't stop myself: is this Wiseau trying to make sense of the fact that someone as rich as he is can't buy love? Because four times out of four viewings now, that's the sense I have been profoundly struck by. This is, in effect, the story of greedy women who don't know a good thing when they've got it, and refuse to let bizarre inarticulate troll-men pay for their affection with nice things. Which is weird - the nice guy misogyny is one thing, but bemoaning the fact that a woman isn't a gold digger is beyond conventional misogyny and into some weird universe where normal social codes don't apply, where human behavior itself is at some entirely acute angle to anything that goes on in your and my everyday world.

So, you know, The Room itself, which is a little like glancing into the reconstruction of what human culture circa 2003 looked like, as conducted by the sentient cockroaches who'll replace us as the planet's dominant species a few tens of millennia down the line. This isn't merely bad screenwriting, though there's certainly that. In the usual fashion of bad movies, scenes begin much too early and end much too late, characters are introduced at random when the film needs a new subplot to kick in (The Room introduces new subplots that it forgets to resolve, or even extend as far as a third scene, on the order of once every ten minutes), and so on and so forth. This is normal; it is the most normal thing that happens anywhere in the confines of The Room, which is full of moments that even the hackiest idiot screenwriter of Z-grade '50s programmers would know better than to include, like a series of scenes in which Michelle (Robyn Paris) and Mike (Mike Holmes) are interrupted having sex by Claudette - you know, Michelle and Mike, those characters we already know and care about so much! - and Mike leaves his boxers behind despite never having removed his pants, and then tells Johnny the whole story about how he had to find his underwear and embarrass himself in front of Claudette, except he calls it "me underwears", which is a phrase never used to describe any article of clothing in the whole history of apparel. I think, if I had to justify this monstrous, repetitive passage, that Wiseau thought of it as comic relief, but that would honestly make me think less of it, not more.

We could run just about every scene of The Room through a similar process, because just about every scene contributes to some plotlet that doesn't end up referring back to everything. There's the matter of the orphan boy Denny (Philip Haldiman) who looks up to Johnny as a father figure, which is presumably why he wants to watch Johnny and Lisa having sex (that is, at least the only way a literate human could interpret the dialogue, so it's probably not what Wiseau intended), and who gets in deep with a drug dealer named Chris-R (Dan Janjigian) at one point in the movie. And I do mean "at one point". Denny is in so damn much of the movie, and he just keeps getting weirder and creepier, and it's completely unclear why's there or why he's so creepy or anything.

In fact, it's so creepy that I think what's going on is that it's not creepy at all: I think the leering, smutty tone that squats on The Room is somehow a complete accident. It's a strangely pre-sexual film: Mike talks about "making out" with Michelle in the same gee-shucks tone that the word "handjob" is employed in Rushmore, and for much the same effect of implying that the character doesn't really know what sex actually is. Though in Rushmore, this is the point, and in The Room, it's simply the case that the whole movie is stuck in a phase where the characters all act somewhat like five-year-olds, with approximately the same sense of petulance and the same spirit of play-acting romance as the act of setting up house and talking about marriage and giving each other presents (one of the film's signature bad lines of dialogue - I dread starting down that road, for fear of not being able to get back off - is "Anyway, how is your sex life?", which speaks to the same "people who have no idea what sex is discuss sex" tone). This tone of pre-pubescent naรฏvetรฉ clashes in the most horrifying way with the film's four (count 'em, four) soft-core sex scenes, set to godawful '80s holdover music. Except when Lisa screws Johnny's best friend Mark, and it's a '90s holdover we hear, perhaps indicating that their love is more mature. We have in front of us, in effect, an erotic thriller made by kindergartners, who studied a few cheesy pornos as the extent of their research into what the word "erotic" signifies.

It's all part of the film's primal sin, which is that Wiseau simply does not comprehend people, which is why he has things like Denny's cheerful request to kiss Lisa and her equally cheery rebuff; Lisa's bored lies of abuse and the way that Michelle is horrified for two seconds until, like a rabbit, she bounces off to some other topic; the infamous announcement that Claudette has breast cancer; the equally-infamous football game played in full tuxedos; the stomach-churning order for a pizza that's half Canadian bacon with pineapple, half artichoke with pesto, light on the cheese, thought that last one could just be because this is fucking California.

This is all, every bit of it, secondary to the fact of Tommy Wiseau himself. It's genuinely fascinating that a man could be responsible for writing every word he directs himself to say, and still come across like has no idea what any of the lines mean. The most famous moment is undoubtedly his rooftop rant, delivered in a strange angry monotone: "I did not hit her! It's not true! It's bullshit, I did not hit her! I did naaaaht. Oh hi Mark". But you could just as easily pick any individual line and line reading and get the same perfect blend of barbarically simple language and emphasis that suggest the dialogue was learned phonetically and without the aid of a translator. Wiseau sounds alien - he looks alien, with his tendency to react seconds too late and let his sunken eyes fall back in his face as he attempts to act solely with his teeth. The movie follows the erratic rhythm of his curious whims; in one signature moment, he stops a scene cold to ad-lib pat an ancient dog on the head with a flighty "Hi doggie" (the dog, for its part, seems to have enjoyed this), and the whole movie has the same sense of a bumblebee-short attention as the writer-director is distracted by every new story beat, which invariably feels totally disconnected from whatever has happened before and after, and has nothing to do with the characters involved, since they are all incoherent. It's a whole feature's worth of noticing a dog and patting it on the head and forgetting that that there's supposed to be, like a movie coming out of all these random notions captured for prosperity. The result, I'm happy to say, is one of the only films from the whole of the 21st Century to live up to every fragment of its hype: it really is one of the most outstanding bad movies of this or any other age.