Jun 12, 2023

Spooning At The Drive-In

The Room
Mahoning Drive-In Theater - Lehighton, PA
I was in college when I first heard about an independent movie called The Room which gained a cult following for being one of the worst movies ever made.  It's the film that Ross Morin of Saint Cloud State University famously referred to as "the Citizen Kane of bad movies".  It has been written about in Time Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and just about every other magazine or newspaper that dedicates some of their pages to the motion picture industry.

Until last night, this was my only exposure to this movie.  I never watched it.  I never saw the trailer.  I didn't even know what it was about, but our friend Anthony convinced me that I couldn't miss the opportunity to see a screening of it at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater for its 20th anniversary, and I'm very glad that he did.

Show banner designed by Andrew Kern

I'm a complicated mess when it comes to movies like this.  If The Room is the Citizen Kane of bad movies, then I am the Linus Van Pelt of this genre.  In It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie BrownLinus spends all night in the pumpkin patch waiting for The Great Pumpkin to rise up and give him toys, but he cautions everyone that he only visits the pumpkin patches that he finds to be sincere... not the biggest, not the nicest, but sincere.  This is the same thing that I look for when it comes to bad movies.  Hundreds of them are released every year, but very few of them come across as a sincere attempt to make a good movie.  Most of them feel like the whole purpose behind them was to deliberately make a bad movie in the hopes that the finished product is so absurd that fans appreciate it as "so bad it's good".  Movies like this feel phony to me and I have a difficult time enjoying them.  When I first heard about The Room, I assumed that this was another deliberate attempt to make a bad film, but I was dead wrong.

Tommy Wiseau wrote, directed and starred in The Room.  There's only three possibilities about what's going on with this guy and regardless of which one is true, he's one of the most fascinating human beings to have ever made a movie.  Either he is absolutely sincere in his belief that The Room is one of the greatest movies of all time, or he has crafted a persona for himself that he has stuck to for over twenty years, and he has played this role so well that he has convinced his friends, family, colleagues, and fans that he believes The Room is perfect and that people who disagree just don't get it.  The third possibility is that he is, in fact, an alien from outer space who is studying our species through motion pictures, and frankly, I find that to be the second most likely of these three scenarios.

I believe that Tommy Wiseau really does think that this movie is flawless.  If he's playing a character and refusing to break kayfabe, he's the greatest living actor in the world today.  There's a documentary on this movie called The Disaster Artist, and if you decide to watch The Room, I strongly recommend watching this documentary right afterward and come to your own conclusion about the man behind what may be the best bad movie ever made.

There was a special guest on the lot for the 20th anniversary screening of The Room.  Actor Greg Sestero was the star of the 1999 horror movie Retro Puppet Master, and he plays the best friend in The Room.  If you forget that he plays the best friend, don't worry... his character will remind you of this at least a half dozen times in the movie.  Mr. Sestero is a hell of a nice guy, and unlike Mr. Wiseau, he is fully aware of how terrible The Room is, and he embraces it as much as the fans do.  He signed a poster and took a picture with me, and for many other folks who were in attendance for the screening, and he even threw a few footballs to people who asked.  Watch the movie and you'll understand why.

Greg Sestero wasn't the only person who was giving their autographs to people who bought tickets to The RoomMama Cheeseburger & The French Fry Kids who keep all the good things to eat and drink ready for us at the concession stand had autographed spoons ready for anyone who might have forgotten to bring their own.  I didn't understand what was going on with the spoons at first, but it all made sense by the time the credits rolled at the end of the movie.

The Room has taken on a cult status that few other movies can match.  The only one that I can think of that comes close is The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  There's a lot of interaction with callbacks to the lines of dialogue (and to the many, many shots of water), and fans of the movie bring spoons to throw at the screen at certain times.  If this is as new to you as it was to me at this time yesterday, I won't spoil the surprise.  It'll be more fun if you find a screening and go experience it for yourself.  Bring spoons.  By five minutes into the film, you'll know what to do.

Seeing The Room for the first time is an experience that I won't forget, and I can promise you that it won't be the last time that I go to a screening.  This is too much fun to pass up.