The Room As A Psychosocial Statement On Contemporary Culture

The Room As A Psychosocial Statement On Contemporary Culture

By Jack Paganelli 

[Disclaimer: The Room is a terrible, terrible movie, and I know and wholeheartedly acknowledge that. It is one of the few movies that have earned the title of a “so-bad-it’s-good” film. This review is intended to make fun of what is possibly the worst movie ever made. If you want proof, you can find the entire movie here and a more honest (and funny) review here I don’t think that The Room is anything more than a bad movie.]

“This is bullsh*t. I did not hit her! I did not. Oh hi Mark.”

So says Johnny, the protagonist and principal character of Tommy Wiseau’s masterpiece. The quote tersely demonstrates a key theme of The Room; the way that moments of emotion punctuate our lives, and the contrast that emerges. In the scene, Johnny has walked onto the roof of his apartment complex, soliloquizing. He laments the accusations of domestic violence levied against him by his fiancée, Lisa, and the circumstances that have brought him these charges. Fortunately, his good friend Mark is present as he walks through the door, and he greets him. His complexion and attitude, previously distraught, are now joyful. Such is life.

The film opens in San Francisco, and we are immediately treated to a montage of some of San Francisco’s more notable locales: The Golden Gate Bridge. No matter. Immediately, we meet our hero— the noble, dashing, and prolific Johnny (portrayed here by director/writer/producer/genius Tommy Wiseau). We are with him at his domicile, and witness him as he gifts his fiancée Lisa a beautiful dress. She agrees to try it on, and the two meet back in the living area. It is around that this time that we meet their mutual friend, a lovable scamp known as Danny. Or Denny. I don’t know. None of the characters could pronounce his name clearly enough. After a brief conversation and a pillowfight, D(a/e)nny leaves, leaving Lisa and Johnny alone. What follows is what the great director of French films, Jean-Luc Godard, would refer to as a “scene d’amour.”

The representation of such heedless joy is key in the film; this is important to note, so as to contrast the tragedy that will ensue. Lisa meets with her mother and expresses to her that she is “bored” by Johnny. Her mother lectures her on the benefits of their partnership, and Lisa storms away, angry and discontent. She quite clearly believes that she has been wronged. This is key symbolism, representative of the random nature of agony. Lisa is bored. No reason is given. No reason is necessary. Her sexual restlessness catalyzes the tragedy of the film, and the justification is as simple as boredom. Truly profound. Angry, Lisa calls Mark, Johnny’s friend, and arranges for the two of them to engage in, as the great film director Stanley Kubrick would refer to it, “sex.”

Lisa tests Johnny’s idyllic life. She is willing to remain with Johnny, though only for his financial support. However, as Johnny loses his clout with the bank he works at, Lisa becomes needier. Her affairs with Mark become more frequent and more haphazard. Does Mark resist? He is at least shown to be willing. The film poses an important question for our time— Can betrayal be bought? Mark is all but willing to betray Johnny, if only for the temporary comforts that Lisa provides him. So, who is Mark? Does he represent our basest desires as humans? As animals?

Even D(a/e)nny, Tommy’s teenage friend, is shown to have a hidden dark side. He is in deep with drug dealers, more notably, the fearsome Chris R. Fortunately, Mark is capable of dissolving all conflict present between the two. Can D(a/e)nny be trusted? It is doubtful. But then again, in the madcap mayhem we know as life, can anyone?

It is near this point in the film that the Freudian nature of the story begins to manifest itself, and the film reveals itself for what it is at its base; an allegory of the Freudian view of the human psyche. Lisa is the “id;” her motivations are base and animalistic. Johnny is the “super-ego;” he provides us with a true sense of morality that guides us through the pure emotion the film represents. Of course, Mark is the “ego;” he is willing to cave to the desires of Lisa, the id, but understands and sympathizes with Johnny, the super-ego, and ultimately sides with him.

Ultimately, Johnny is made aware of the affair, and, tragically, he takes his own life. D(a/e)nny blames Lisa and Mark, but the three are capable of comforting each other. A human tragedy has manifested itself. The film ends on this note. Johnny’s suicide brings the film to its inevitable conclusion. The heedless cheer the happy couple felt is now gone. All is sadness. Again, such is life.

How could The Room, which is, ostensibly, one of the finest and deepest motion pictures ever made, be so lost on the collective consciousness of today’s film academia? To this day, it remains critically reviled. Entertainment Weekly has referred to it as the “Citizen Kane of bad movies.” I would propose the latter three words of this title be revoked. In earnest, I believe this film warrants comparison to “Citizen Kane.” Why not? Shall I compare the two?

Citizen Kane and The Room were both written and directed by the same man, who also starred in both films. Both depict a rich, successful man, and how his love for a woman who is emotionally unfaithful to him catalyzes his demise. Both will die by the end of the film, but not before wrecking their respective bedrooms, thereby symbolically rejecting their materialist upbringings. The Room is Citizen Kane, but updated to fit the sensibilities of modern America, as opposed to the America of the burgeoning newspapermen as the early twentienth century may have seen it. The key difference present is that Citizen Kane seems almost before its time, psychologically; a testament to the pre-Freudian jungle of human yearning and emotion and how it could impact those powerful individuals tainted by the forces of love, desire, and suffering. The Room presents us with a different view of a universe that wades through jungles of Freudian and even Jungian psychosocial themes, analyzing and dissecting them. Even the cinematography is symbolic of the gradual deterioration of the relationship between Johnny and Lisa. As the film progresses, the video may stop while the audio does not. Occasionally, the film slows to a halt, or even stops to buffer. Perhaps this is representative of the disintegration of human relationships over time; perhaps the video quality was poor. I don’t know. It wasn’t available on iTunes, so I downloaded it illegally. The video quality had no real guarantee. Please don’t call the cops.

In conclusion, I believe that The Room warrants consideration on both a critical and public level. It is one of the most psychosocially complex flims ever made, deserving of a place alongside Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion, and, yes, Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane. Johnny, Lisa, Mark, D(a/e)nny, and even Chris R. all deserve a place in the eternal canon of literature’s great characters. Lastly, I believe that The Room also exists as great entertainment, warranting viewership not only from the intelligentsia of motion picture culture, but also from the masses. The Room is a masterpiece, and one of, if not the, greatest films ever made.



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