‘The Room’ is so bad it’s good, and ‘The Disaster Artist’ shows why we care about bad movies
“The Disaster Artist” is a very good movie about a very bad movie. But it’s still nowhere near as miraculous as the movie on which it’s based.
When it comes to bad movies, Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room” is in a class all by itself. The 2003 film — written, directed, produced by and starring Wiseau, a mystery figure of unknown age or origin — has become notorious at midnight screenings over the last decade-plus, where it has been hailed as the worst movie ever made.
That’s a tough call, and there’s no measuring stick by which a film’s singular ineptitude can be defined against another complete failure of the art form. But on the very short list of the Worst Movies Ever, “The Room” is right up there.
Bad movies are released every week and people don’t care, and they certainly don’t linger in the public consciousness the way “The Room” has. (Just ask “The Snowman,” the dreadful Michael Fassbender thriller from October, which grossed $6.6 million and was gone from theaters in four weeks.)
So what makes “The Room” different, and what does it take for a movie to become so bad that it’s good?
First off, we have to examine what we’re looking for from movies in the first place. We want to be entertained, to be told a story, and to hopefully learn something about ourselves and our own lives in the process. We want to watch talented artists who excel at their craft, and for their collaboration to help us escape into a world that teaches us about our own.
When these things happen, it’s a glorious thing. Yet there are times when none of them happen, and the results are so baffling they become glorious in a completely different way. They require a perfect storm of cluelessness and ambition, belief on behalf of the filmmaker that what he’s making is somehow transcendent, even though it’s anything but.
Ed Wood had a few of these, the horror sequel “Troll 2” is on the list, and M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening” certainly had that dangerous mix of bravado and idiocy. This year’s “The Book of Henry,” the only 2017 film where Naomi Watts plays video games and acts like a teenager and attempts to take out her neighbor with a high-powered assault rifle to fulfill her son’s dying wish, also belongs in the canon.
And then there’s “The Room,” which plays like a human drama created by someone whose only interactions with humans or drama came from watching soap operas and late night Cinemax thrillers. To watch it is to question reality itself, and it’s funnier than most comedies and more mind-boggling than any mysteries.
“The Disaster Artist,” which opens in local theaters next weekend, seeks to answer the riddle of how “The Room” turned out the way it did. It’s like Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” in its celebration of its central character and his utter faith in his process, despite his artistic shortcomings.
You don’t need to have seen “The Room” to enjoy “The Disaster Artist,” but it certainly helps enrich the experience. And if you’re wondering why you should watch a bad movie like “The Room” — or a good movie like “The Disaster Artist” that fetishizes the making of a bad movie — the answer is simple: They’re fun. And they both teach us a little bit about the human experience.