The Room is Great But Tommy Wiseau Sucks

first_imgStay on target If you’ve ever stumbled across Geek.com’s 404 page, you’ve been treated to a slideshow of me, head down, looking dejected in various contexts. But one picture I frequently use to show just how happy I can be is from the time I met Tommy Wiseau at a Chicago screening of his bad movie masterpiece The Room.If you’re familiar with The Room, you’ll immediately understand why I’m this giddy. The movie on its own, full of surreal non-sequiturs and incompetent storytelling tearing a veneer of production value to shreds, is already hilarious. Even Star Wars isn’t immune to the charms of The Room. But seeing the “movie” in a theater full of fellow fans with prepared rituals and inside jokes, all there to meet the creator himself, adds extra infectious energy.And that energy is all over The Disaster Artist, the new film by James Franco recreating the drama behind the creation of The Room as well as recreating parts of The Room itself. It’s based on the memoir by actor/Tommy’s friend/Mark Greg Sestero and co-writer Tom Bissell. But the film is also James Franco and his Hollywood friends using their clout to prove they are the biggest The Room fans of all. I’ll leave the full review to MovieBob, but I was very entertained.However, what’s key to enjoying The Room, and what The Disaster Artist mostly understands, is that you’re laughing at the movie, not with it. Tommy Wiseau set out to make a completely earnest, legitimate drama and failed so spectacularly that it’s hilarious. That’s not to say that all enjoyment of bad movies is based on irony. Sometimes the fun of schlock is recognizing the honest artistry or bewildering specificity of an auteur beneath the crap. But The Room is so bad it’s good because it is, ultimately, so bad.Compare that to something like Sharknado where the whole point of the production was to make something so cheap and superficially “bad” it’s entertaining. You can’t really call that movie is failure because it technically does succeed at its very cynical goals. The audience is made to feel superior than the work but really they’re the suckers.Even something like Rocky Horror Picture Show annoys me for similar reasons. Yes it’s camp fun (if not John Waters camp fun) and has good themes of accepting differences. But the whole ritual of calling and responding to this “bad” midnight movie is absolutely the response the film is trying to illicit. Audiences are laughing with the movie, not at it. It’s sincere enjoyment masquerading as ironic, which is funny because I sincerely find Rocky Horror to just be bad. But the movie’s decades-long legacy is proof of this strategy’s success.And unfortunately, that strategy is now being co-opted by Tommy Wiseau. We don’t know when it happened (The Disaster Artist suggests right after the premiere of The Room but that’s unlikely) but at some point Wiseau retroactively claimed The Room was always supposed to be funny. The box art reads “Experience this quirky new black comedy, it’s a riot!” Now I’m a huge supporter of the idea that the artist has final say over their own work, especially as opposed to fans. “The Death of the Author” can go die. But it’s so obvious to everyone, from fans to folks on set to James Franco, how BS that “I meant to do that” line from Wiseau is.It’s the heart of the tragedy that is Wiseau’s post-The Room career. Desperate to be famous and loved even if it’s by mocking hipsters, the already mysteriously wealthy Wiseau began cashing in with screenings and tours and all sorts of merchandise pandering to fans of famous “comedy” The Room. Even worse are all of his other meme-driven acting endeavors like The House That Drips Blood on Alex, his Tim and Eric appearances, his YouTube video game reviews, or his Hulu show The Neighbors. Wiseau trying to be dramatic is weird and funny, but Wiseau trying to be funny and “weird” is just cringeworthy.As a The Room fan, this poor pivot to comedy can be tough to grapple with. I hate Wiseau trying to spin the movie is purposefully funny all along to protect his massive ego, to justify, exploit, and deny his true “Emperor Has No Clothes” relationship to his cult fan base. But didn’t I hypocritically support this by going to one of his screenings?In The Disaster Artist the book, Greg Sestero grapples with an even more extreme version of this dilemma. Sestero helped Wiseau make The Room because they were friends and roommates. But was Sestero just indulging Wiseau’s worst delusional habits? Furthermore, his association with The Room is now arguably the best thing Sestero has going for him, and that’s something Wiseau gave him along his housing in L.A. So what moral leg does Sestero have to stand on for recognizing The Room was bad from the start but still going along? At least Wiseau followed through on his dumb dream.In both the book and film, Sestero is arguably the more tragic character, making his role as audience surrogate in the Ed Wood-meets-Sunset Boulevard tale especially fascinating. However, he does have a sense of self-awareness, which he originally viewed as an acting weakness compared to Wiseau’s fearlessness, that stops him from hurting people the way Wiseau does.And that brings us to my last point. Even though I love watching The Room, I’m frustrated that Wiseau has turned it, and now The Disaster Artist with its handsome A-list talent, into a “win” for him because it’s clear that Tommy Wiseau sucks. Not just that he sucks as a writer/director/actor. He sucks as a person. He’s narcissistic. He mistreats and manipulates people. He haaaaaaates women. And this is all obvious from the mere fraction of his life we vaguely know about.The Disaster Artist does the best it can with the info it has, but there’s a gaping hole in the narrative due to how little we know about Wiseau’s background, age, source of income, and other biographical details The Room itself clearly, if subconsciously, depicts. For a while the mystery was fun, but now it’s just depressing because there’s no way the answers are good.Sestero is similarly frustrated with Wiseau’s shady nature and his attempts to call him out on it, to “betray” Tommy, to me justify The Disaster Artist’s existence. Wiseau is a sympathetic figure. A vulnerable weird-looking foreign California dreamer constantly rejected until he forges his own creative path. He’s sort of inspirational if you squint. But he is also someone who absolutely needs to be examined critically, even if you’re James Franco and ultimately need Wiseau’s blessing to make the biography in the first place.So by all means see The Room and The Disaster Artist. You’ll have a great time and a “great” time. But don’t kid yourself into thinking The Room is something other than a fantastically funny failure or that Tommy Wiseau is good and can ever intentionally make anything as hilarious as that accident. It may feel mean, but the most honest and healthy thing you can do is laugh at Tommy Wiseau, not with him.Buy The RoomBuy The Disaster ArtistLet us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey. Finally, Tommy Wiseau Joins The Avengers in Marvel’s ‘The Room’Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero Are Still Best Friends last_img read more