Oh Hi Mark: The art of awful

RICARDO TEIXEIRA AND GEORGINA GLASS
Without a doubt the worst film ever made, but undeniably a brilliant film. Written by Tommy Wiseau. Produced by Tommy Wiseau. Directed by Tommy Wiseau. Starring Tommy Wiseau, and Greg Sestero, co-author of the best selling book The Disaster Artist, which tells the story of The Room’s creation. With an IMDb rating of 3.6, it’s clear that the film is horrible, in fact so horrible that many people refuse to believe that Wiseau is not some sort of genius.

The Room has become the poster child for the film term “it’s so bad it’s brilliant”. The plot of the film is shaky, with various subplots that are never resolved and which appear at random throughout the film. The film is intended to be a drama with Wiseau starring as a classic tragic hero, betrayed by his lover and best friend. This betrayal culminates in what Wiseau intended to be a tragic suicide scene. However, the unintentionally comedic nature of the film, stemming from the bad acting and ridiculous plot, is what has made the film a favourite. Originally released in June of 2003, it’s theatrical run only lasted two weeks, in hopes that it would qualify for the academy awards (yes, really). Fifteen years later, it is still one of the most talked about films.

Popular midnight screenings around the world feature fans of the film constantly shouting “Oh Hi Mark” and throwing hundreds of plastic spoons at the screen, and even singing along to the soundtrack. These screening traditions and general popularity the film have led to the production of the film The Disaster Artist, based on the book by Greg Sestero. The film was optioned by none other than James Franco and Seth Rogen. In the spirit of Wiseau’s hard work, Franco followed by directing, writing, producing and starring in the lead role, as Tommy Wiseau himself. His portrayal earned him several nominations and even a Golden Globe win for best actor in a musical or comedy. With all the craze surrounding the films, the story, and Tommy Wiseau, many ask, why is The Room so popular if it is so horrible? In an interview with Vox, co-author of The Disaster Artist Tom Bissell describes The Room as “a film created by an alien that has never seen a movie, but has had several movies thoroughly explained to him”. Although Wiseau set out to make a drama with the passion of Tennessee Williams, he ended up unintentionally creating a black comedy that fans have deconstructed as a failed film, and reconstructed into one often compared to Citizen Kane. The truth around whether or not Wiseau intended to make a bad film is widely debated. This is mainly due to his constant ongoing promotion of the film, and labelling of it as a black comedy, even though the initial trailer states it is a drama.

The Room as a topic of debate has inspired several academic journals which have discussed the nature of what it actually is, and why it is enjoyed. Many agree it is enjoyed because of its contravention towards mainstream cinema and how the story depicts subversion of social standards. Simply, it is loved because of how unintentionally awful it is, even if Tommy Wiseau insists it is intended to be so. The film adaption of The Disaster Artist sheds light on what happened behind the scenes and helps understand Wiseau’s vision. Ultimately, Wiseau is a misunderstood creative genius, and The Room is not a good movie, but it is great in how bad it is.

 

Illustration: Georgina Glass

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