Sept. 28 2015 03:57 PM

The queasy experience of watching Tommy Wiseau's cult classic for the first time

    A line of people spans the entire block. It's the most people I've ever seen in the quiet neighborhood of Kensington. It's nearly midnight and I'm still trying to shake the residual sleepiness of my pregame nap, but it was a restless sleep and I feel twitchy.

    We're all here to see The Room, a 2003 film that has quickly earned cult status, partly due to its rampant ineptness and partly due to the intrigue that surrounds its director/producer/star, Tommy Wiseau. He is here tonight to sell merchandise, take pictures with fans and provide a Q&A. The crowd is going bonkers. A person walks past, wearing a black wig and a tuxedo to look like Wiseau's character in the movie, who, if you can imagine, looks like what would result if a wax figure of The Cult's lead singer, Ian Astbury, melted together with a wax figure of Brandon Lee from The Crow.

    “This is insane,” my friend Julia says. We're both trying not to feel out-of-place in the young crowd. Based on the general schlubby appearance, the prevalence of practice facial hair, and a youthful energy not yet smothered by the burden of life, I'd put the average age of the crowd at just over 21. We, on the other hand, are over 30. I doubt anyone else in this crowd needed a nap to stay up past midnight. Neither of us has ever seen The Room. We don't know what to expect.

    In line, a dude in an orange shirt tries to make conversation with Julia. He doesn't look at me. The crowd skews overwhelmingly male, and more than a couple give off the impression that their mom still pays for their Wi-Fi.

    At the front of the line, people taking photos with Wiseau ask him to reenact his famous, melodramatic line, “You're tearing me apart, Lisa!” Wiseau is more than happy to oblige. For some reason, he wears an absurd amount of belts. Like, four belts! I make a mental note of it.

    “Did you see how many belts he was wearing?” I ask when we sit down. Julia had not.

    Finally, at 12:30 (a.m.!) an employee of Ken Cinema steps out in front of the screen, holding a microphone. “All you guys got your spoons?” she asks. The clinking of plastic spoons fills the theater. Traditionally, audience members interact with The Room, and the reason behind the spoons, as we soon learn, is due to the prevalence of spoon-art in the movie. Whenever a painting of a spoon appears onscreen, audience members throw their spoons at the screen.

    “Try not to hit the screen,” the employee says. It's a futile request.

    Wiseau takes the mic. He rewards everyone who bought his signature underwear (ew) by bringing them up front to ask a question. He flies down the line, dismissing many people's questions by calling them “retarded” (“I'm going to say ‘retarded' a lot tonight,” he says) then shoe-horns derogatory Obamacare references into his answers.

    One guy asks, “Why so many belts?”

    Cut to me: excited.

    Wiseau: “I'll whisper the answer in your ear.” He does and the guy laughs.

    Cut to me: disappointed.

    Finally, the The Room starts. The audience erupts at Wiseau's credit, but the applause quickly turns to booing at lead actress Juliette Danielle's name. Perhaps she's the antogonist, I think. It's not the first time that night my thoughts resemble the ¯_(?)_/¯ emoji.

    Danielle shows up in the opening scene. The audience begins to shout.



    Dudes are shouting themselves hoarse. It sounds like battle cries. It's so loud I can't even hear any sounds from the movie.

    Three uncomfortably long sex scenes occur at the beginning of the movie (well, two if you consider one is just repeated footage). More dudes make fun of Danielle's weight:


    I look over at Julia. She pulls a mini bottle of bourbon out of her purse and hands it over. Fuck it, if we're gonna be the only grown-ups here, we should at least act like it. I chug.

    From what I can understand amid all the yelling, the plot (I use the term loosely) concerns Wiseau's character, whose “future wife” (or “WIFE, OF THE FUTURE” the audience yells) cheats on him with his best friend. Wiseau eventually finds out. Future wife shows no remorse and Wiseau (SPOILER ALERT) kills himself.

    Complaining about the misogyny of The Room seems like a moot point. Wiseau doesn't seem like some underrated master. He just seems like a simplistic dude and accidental filmmaker who made a sometimes-funny trainwreck. The hatred his film evokes from the young audience, however, is gross. At one point, I lean over to Julia and whisper, “Does every dude learn how to be on the Internet from watching this movie?” She says, “Yes.” The couple sitting next to me leaves.

    People toss a football around in the aisle, mirroring an out-of-place sports scene. Two guys—kids, really—take the seats next to me that the couple just vacated. One of the kid's voices breaks when he yells, “Cuz she's a fucking woman!

    The movie ends. Spoons litter the theater. The dispersing audience has the general camaraderie of people exiting a stadium after watching their team win—a “we made it together”-type of feeling that occurs after watching something vaguely violent or emotional.

    “Was it everything you hoped for?” I ask Julia.

    “I don't know,” she says. Neither do I. Maybe “hope” was the wrong word.


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