With James Franco's bizarre biopic, the joke has finally gone full circle: they've made a movie about the worst movie ever made that is a serious Oscar contender. The Room is legendary. A movie that makes all other so-bad-it's-good films look tame by comparison, it's a pure vanity project from writer-director-producer-star Tommy Wiseau. It follows his all-American (note: Wiseau is clearly from Eastern Europe) Johnny in a story of intrigue, betrayal, and an awful lot of softcore sex, all of which shows a hilarious misunderstanding of cinematic technique.
Slowly developing a cult following thanks to the sheer earnestness of the car crash, it's now a mainstream curiosity, with regular screenings (featuring appearances from Wiseau himself) around the world and, thanks in part to The Disaster Artist, getting serious coverage: James and Tommy both recently appeared on Jimmy Kimmel.
Why You Don't Need To Have Seen The Room
The Disaster Artist tells how The Room came to be, but it's really important to stress that James Franco hasn't made a film just for converts. While the story is the making of The Room, the actual production is just one act in a bigger story of the friendship between Wiseau and co-star Greg Sestero, from struggling through acting classes in San Francisco to their discovery Tommy's passion project is laughably bad. It's, above all, about male friendship and dreams of success; themes that step beyond the origin.
Of course, The Room looms large in that, but Franco does an incredible job of conveying the movie's awfulness through character reactions and impeccably recreated scenes that mean The Room newcomers can still understand why it's become such a phenomenon. Even the early nods - "you're tearing me apart" - and references to the weirdest parts of the film - Wiseau having sex with a belly button - are funny by themselves, pointing out aspects of the character's psyche as much as wink-wink-nudge-nudging fans.
You Should Still See The Room
However, all that said, The Room is ultimately worth seeing. It's a special kind of bad that can only really be understood in its complete form. It's not just dumb or poorly shot or terribly sound-mixed or painfully acted: it's all of those wrapped together in pure obliviousness. You can watch clips online (again, not necessary to enjoy The Disaster Artist) but they don't convey the true awfulness or the underlying and genuine passion that makes the behind-the-scenes worth dramatizing. There's something captivating about a project so misjudged, and so complete in that manner.
There's plenty of ways to watch The Room. Wiseau himself sells DVDs, although if you want the proper experience, you really need to go to one of the special screenings that take place regularly in cities around the world. This takes it from bizarre case study into true art piece; fans chant along lines, throw spoons at the screen and more. It's not the optimal way to fully understand the awfulness, but few cinema visits can match the rush.