Saturday, 20 February 2010

Report: The Room – Scottish Premiere

The Cameo, Edinburgh, 20th February 2010

Since seeing The Room for the first time around a year ago during a ‘bad film day’ at a friend’s house, everything I subsequently read on the film made reference to the mythical cinema screenings the film receives. When hearing these appearances were then attracting the likes of Charlie Brooker and Graham Linehan in London, I wondered how long it would be before Caledonia got to experience the supposed thrill of seeing it en masse while following the guidelines on how to ‘interact’ with it.

And so, Tommy Wiseau’s now legendary ‘best worst film’ received its first public showing in Scotland at the Cameo cinema in Edinburgh. Going in, I was worried that the Scottish crowd may display a level of repression not seem in similar screenings in the US. Regardless, fearing being in an over-excited minority, I took along a pocketful of plastic cutlery, more in an attempt to ‘get the ball rolling’ than anything else.

It was a delight to see my fears appeared completely unfounded. In the Cameo’s bar beforehand there was a definite buzz. It’s been some time since I’ve seen a crowd that size at the cinema for a late-night showing. The first glimpses of a Tommy Wiseau t-shirt and mock-tuxedo were enough to inspire confidence in the fact that the screening appeared to be a success – and that more than a few people were already au fait with the film’s multiple failings. In fact, the Cameo was still turning people away from the sold out screening right up to advertised start time.

When screen one itself was opened, within minutes space was getting scarce and people were already beginning to holler some of the film’s insanely quotable catchphrases (crap-phrases?) across the auditorium. Flying spoons began to make their fitful first appearances and with the time approaching a quarter-hour past the 11pm supposed start, the excitement had built to a crescendo. When the lights finally dimmed and the pitiful ‘Wiseau Films’ logo flashed up in front, any preconceptions I may have had about the crowd being less vocal were dissipated as a loud rumpus of whoops and cheers echoed back-and-forth across the Art Deco interior.

Watching the film was definitely less of a film-viewing and more of an experience. As a film-related experience, it’s unrivalled. It’s raucous, riotous and has very little to do with following (what passes for) a plot. It flies in the face of every film-going instinct I possess but you’re swept up by it. It was a truly wonderful moment to see Tommy Wiseau’s first appearance on screen met with the kind of adulation usually reserved for an A-lister sauntering down a red carpet.

As the film progressed, and people got into the swing of it even more, every scene in the film was plastered over with a vociferous chorus of, in turns, appreciation and revulsion. It was clearly too much for one patron who was overheard saying that he “didn’t expect The Rocky Horror Picture Show” as he asked to be refunded his entry fee ten minutes into the film.

The problem is that the experience rises or falls on the strength of what’s being shouted out. I can’t blame anybody for their eagerness. It’s understandable. This is a film that demands to have things shouted at it – as witnessed by the fact there are actually guidelines as to exactly what to shout, and when. However, I would offer some advice. Chiefly, people needed to exercise a little restraint. Shouting the same thing all the time ensured it quickly got old and the constant drowning out of the film’s (admittedly low) soundtrack ensured that any new viewers were immediately at a disadvantage. The film needed some room to breathe amongst the jeering and I’d advise that if people want to encourage an atmosphere where everyone can join in (and not a constant exercise in self-congratulation) they need to think more clearly about what they’re shouting out, and when.

I know it’s in the spirit of the film’s ‘rules’ but for every zinger that was delivered (one wag’s description of the film’s anti-heroine Lisa’s face as being akin to “a punched cake”) there were ten bellows of “she has cancer” or “because she’s a woman” – only a handful of which struck the right note with the on-screen happenings.

Pre-empting all the film’s more famous dialogue does nobody any good and drowning out the lines themselves is counterproductive to both first-time and seasoned viewers. Shouting out some of the film’s funnier revelations a good half hour before they occur is inane and presumptive of everyone having seen it before.

Timing is critical. Shouting over dialogue isn’t always a good idea and very rarely funnier than what’s up on screen. The problem is that the film is the real joke and people occasionally seemed to forget that.

I don’t want to sound negative as it was a great, boisterous atmosphere and certainly unlike any viewing experience I’ve ever had. Hopefully people will rein-in their heckles just a bit because, as fun as it is, it’s still a film at the end of the day. If you can’t at least connect with that through the braying, it threatens to tip the whole experience into pointlessness. I think/hope that in future screenings the right balance will be struck between enthusiasm and (possibly undeserved) reverence for the film-watching. Right, end of lecture.

The Cameo’s gamble appears to have paid off with the next screening already planned for 27th March, with the hopeful intention of making these monthly occurrences. It might be nice if the Cameo could make any necessary tweaks to the film’s volume for next time around, as well as maybe providing handouts of ‘what to look out for’ in the film. I don't think they need to worry about supplying spoons as I'd imagine the post-screening clean-up of screen one left them with an abundance. The bar could maybe even serve ‘Scotchkas’? Just an idea.

For good or bad, it would seem The Room is in serious danger of becoming part of an Edinburgh happening.

Film = 1/5
Experience = 4/5

Read my tweaked version of this event review over at

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1 comment:

  1. A spot on review of a fantastic night out. I had no idea what was going on on-screen, partly because of the general incoherence of the plot and partly due to the slightly over-eager crowd.

    As you note though, it was better that than silence so all it needs is a bit of guidance for newbies and it could/should become a regular fixture.

    Cheers to the Cameo for screening it and to the punters for turning up!