Should You Watch “The Room” at the Nova Cinema in Melbourne?
The Room for anyone who doesn’t know what it is, is a cinematic classic that can be seen around the world, fifteen years after it made its premiere. So – should you prioritise a viewing during a visit to Melbourne?
Let’s start with a bit of background, for those who are curious.
It’s regularly touted as being “the worst film ever made”, due to a mixture of the terrible camerawork, lacklustre acting, awful script and completely and utter lack of continuity. Released in 2003, it’s been regularly shown in theatres around the world, where seeing the film is an event in itself.
The Room is about a man named Johnny and his fiancée Lisa, who are happily co-existing in San Fransisco, USA. One day, Lisa inexplicably seduces Johnny’s dreamy best friend Mark (“Oh, hi Mark!”) and chaos ensues.
There’s betrayal, drug deals, graphic sex scenes (“You’re doing it wrong!”), violence, parties, conversations which seem to go nowhere and the tossing around of many footballs.
Dedicated crowds have been flocking to the movies to watch it, since its release and subsequent revival. People will throw plastic spoons at the screen, agonise over particularly terrible moments in the general plot and dialogue and sometimes, simply march out in disgust.
I’ve had a copy of the film on a hard drive at home for a long time now, but have steadfastly refused to watch it anywhere other than at a cinema. As a typical ex-film student, I have a bunch of films that I’ve been working my way through in this manner – The Room is one of the few left on my original list. I’ve failed to see it over the last ten years, as there wasn’t anywhere where I lived in Australia, which had regular screenings.
So, my first choice of venue for a long time has been the the Prince Charles in London, where occasionally director/writer/producer and lead actor Tommy Wiseau will make an appearance. I was always and typically out of town when this occurred (talk about a lack of prioritising) and so never went and saw it any other time of the year. Moving away from London and the UK hasn’t exactly increased my chances of attending this event.
Actor Greg Sestero wrote a book about his experiencing making the film, entitled The Disaster Artist. The book was recently made into a film of the same name starring James Franco, which leads one to wonder – how much longer will the film exist purely as a cult classic, before making it onto the mainstream market? If it hasn’t already, that is.
Maybe I needed to bite the bullet, rip the bandaid off, use your analogy of choice. Either way, I decided it was probably time to watch The Room at a local cinema. London would have to wait.
Melbourne has its share of arthouse cinemas, but the only place which screens the movie is The Cinema Nova in Carlton, a cinema that I attend pretty regularly, mostly because the inside is purple and it’s opposite a great bookstore (Readings, for all of you playing at home).
On the first Saturday of every month, fans will gather at 11:30pm, to watch the flick in all its glory.
I decided it was now or never and put it on my “things to do in Melbourne” list, then promptly put it off for several months (deterred by the late start time) until my boyfriend bought me tickets for my birthday.
We arrived at the Nova Cinema at around 10:45, after having dinner in a nearby restaurant on Melbourne’s famous Lygon St. Our early arrival ensured we were at the head of the queue, which pleased me (the monthly sessions have been selling out well in advance. Thanks a bunch, James Franco).
You had to appreciate the lengths some people had gone to to make an effort. Many of Melbourne’s finest hipsters were in attendance, donning their best suits (there’s one scene where the main male characters inexplicably turn up to the apartment dressed in tuxedos, they toss a football around downstairs… and that’s about all that happens).
We had to go through a bag search to enter this cinema because this is the world we live in now, grabbed a programme and some plastic spoons and then took our seats. The excitement within the theatre was palpable. People were rowdy – yelling, laughing and talking excitably amongst one another.
I have kept myself clean for my first cinematic viewing of the Room, which has been quite an effort since I first got my hands on a copy in 2008 (and looking back, I kinda wish I’d just watched it now!). I know the storyline, I am aware of the film’s
worst best quotes.
I can’t exactly say that the viewing at The Nova Cinema met the high expectations I’d developed over the last decade. My boyfriend had seen it previously in another cinema, in a different city with a less, let’s say “energetic” crowd. He thought that experience had been much, much better.
The Nova’s cinemas are small and intimate and the acoustics aren’t the best. It was pretty hard to hear what was actually happening over the sound of the audience (people were having conversations the entire time, which is not meant to be part of the experience). I think a lot of particular cues were missed because of this, which kinda ruined the fun a bit.
The main problem was, that everyone was doing the darnedest to outdo each other. You weren’t going to watch the film, you were there to watch the crowd getting gradually more and more obnoxious as they screamed comments at the screen. Which is the entire point, but it’s only funny if what’s being yelled out is amusing in itself.
Don’t get me wrong – there were some genuinely funny moments. One particular fellow would stand up in disgust and throw a bunch of spoons with terrific aim at the screen, anytime Lisa and Mark macked on. Another thought it was appropriate to start singing Darth Vader’s theme tune whenever Lisa’s mother appeared on screen (dunno if this is a regular thing, but I thought it was inspired). And the one comment which had me almost crying with laughter, was one scene in the living room – Lisa and Johnny are talking and there is a bowl of fruit on the table. One man announced: “That fruit is fake and Denny ate it,” which he had done in the last scene. This is undeniably a very Denny-like thing to do.
Yet as highlights went, that was about it. I don’t know if it was the lateness of the screening on a Saturday (this is Melbourne, so I doubt there were that many sober people in the theatre), or the particular crowd we had that night, but it felt like we were in the middle of a “who can come up with the funniest comment?” competition. And in all honesty – they just weren’t that amusing most of the time.
One guy in particular who was sat behind me, would yell out stuff every thirty seconds or so which was not funny at all, but impossible to ignore. I was feeling a fair bit violent towards him by the end of the flick, but then I did grow up with two brothers so that’s generally my first reaction to anything which disturbs my peace. ( I did not hit her, it’s not true, it’s bullshit, I did not hit her. I did not. Oh hi, Mark.)
So, should you go to the Nova Cinema above anywhere else to watch The Room? If you’re a veteran (Tommy Wiseau himself says the film needs to be seen five or more times in the cinema to be fully appreciated and he knows better than anyone else), certainly give it a go, but please only yell things out if you’re 100% sure they’re going to be amusing for every other member of the audience. I came there for 1 hour and 39 minutes of side-splitting laughter, damn it.
You are tearing me apart, Lisa.
Have you seen The Room? Where was your setting of choice?
PS. Here’s a compilation of some of the best bits of the movie, if you’re interested.
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