I love “The Room.” For those not in the know, The Room is writer-director-actor Tommy Wiseau’s film about a man named Johnny whose fiancee Lisa is cheating on him with his best friend Mark. It is, however, considered one of the worst movies of all time. Obviously, I have seen this movie about nine times. Therefore, it is only right to rank every character with a speaking role in the film (excluding the baristas who recommend the cheesecake, because that’s kind of background noise). The rankings are based primarily on how much they add to my enjoyment of the film, and what they bring to the table. Without further ado, The Room character power rankings.
11. Flower Shop Woman
The flower shop woman’s low rank is simply due to her lack of screen time. Had Tommy Wiseau written a longer backstory to her, I’m sure she would shine. However, all we see her do is give Johnny flowers, and that isn’t much to write home about. However, the scene is famous for its ludicrously fast, unnatural dialogue. It’s also worth mentioning that, despite working at (or perhaps owning) a San Francisco flower shop, she knows Johnny decently well. At first she remarks that “[She] didn’t know it was [him]” and then, as he is leaving her establishment, mentions that he is her “favorite customer,” which of course raises the question: how many flowers does he buy? I don’t have the answer to this, and you’ll find that that is a common theme in these power rankings. I can only rank what I see on screen.
Also, while she couldn’t be lower, she is aided by her adorable dog on the counter, although I doubt the dog is content in that position. He doesn’t have anywhere to go.
Michelle is Lisa’s, Johnny’s fiancee’s, best friend and confidant. If I had to venture a guess, she exists because Tommy Wiseau had seen a “best friend character” in other films, and thought she was needed. The only thing that puts her over the top of the Flower Shop Woman is screen time. She is in the movie for far too long to be ranked last, and, quite frankly, far too long in general. Oddly enough, her character’s performance and dialogue is not good by any means, but rarely bad enough to mention. No one goes to a screening of The Room quoting Michelle lines.
On the other hand, and we’ll talk about this more later, she and her boyfriend Mike apparently sneak into Johnny and Lisa’s apartment to have sex on a regular basis. Why do they do this? No clue. They might be homeless transients. And in that case, I can sleep well at night knowing I didn’t put a homeless transient last on my list.
It should come as no surprise that the character of “Steven” only exists because the actor who played Peter, the other friend of Johnny and Mark’s, quit midway through production. Therefore, during the climactic scenes, they gave all of Peter’s lines to a character named Steven. Why is Steven ranked above Michelle, despite having one-eighth of the screen time? Because he delivers one of the most over-acted, nonsensical lines of the film, “I feel like I’m sitting on an atomic bomb waiting for it to go off.” What does that even mean? And does Tommy Wiseau know how atomic bombs work? You really can’t sit on them, and furthermore, they tend to drop from the sky rather than “go off.” You could talk me out of putting Steven here, and that’s fine, but a bad movie is always helped by an unexplained character coming out of nowhere joining the action.
Yes, Peter is only slightly better than the guy who replaces him. The important thing to remember about Peter is that he is a psychologist, and he always “plays psychologist” on Johnny and Mark. He (and Steven by extension), exists only to be a friend of Johnny’s who is not sleeping with Lisa. He however, has a problem with Mark’s behavior, specifically smoking weed on top of the roof. Because of this, Mark nearly throws him off of said roof. It is debatable if this is the closest anyone gets to being murdered in this film.
However, Peter just talks a lot in his scenes. Not much is accomplished. When he “plays psychologist” he kind of just points out obvious things about other characters’ behavior. Sure, the scene where they play football in their tuxedos (don’t ask) and he falls down is funny for a bit, but it is such a ham-fisted attempt at slapstick comedy that, even in a movie like this, it is neither actually good or so-bad-it’s-good.
Denny is, at times, too creepy and dare-I-say autistic to generate laughs in a so-bad-it’s-good sense. Denny is a college(?) student who lives in Johnny’s building, who it is revealed doesn’t have parents and is living on Johnny’s dime. He is like a son to them. However, he is very attracted to Johnny’s fiancee Lisa. Johnny doesn’t have much a problem with this for some reason, but there’s too much stuff in this movie to dwell on this.
Denny’s peak moment occurs at the beginning of the film when Johnny and Lisa very clearly are going to have sex and go upstairs. When they get up there, Denny runs up and starts pillow-fighting with them. He then, I shit you not, delivers the line “I just like to watch you guys.” The man/boy lives on these people’s money and has the gall to tell them that he likes to watch them have sex. In fact, the central question to Denny’s existence is if he is a man or a boy. It’s worth noting that Tommy Wiseau remarked that he believed Philip Haldiman, the actor who played Denny, to be little bit mentally-challenged.
The climax of the Denny storyline is of course the drug deal gone wrong in the second half of the film. This, we will cover with another character.
It might be sacrilege to rank a main character relatively low in a power rankings, but I am left with very little choice. Mark just does not contribute that much to this movie. In fact, he is only ranked six because he, by being a main character, is involved with most of the good scenes in the film. It’s worth mentioning now, by the way, that in between the three main characters, there are four sex scenes (two with Johnny and Lisa, two with Mark and Lisa). None of these sex scenes are sexy and they all render any audience uncomfortable. In fact, they’re only “funny” upon reflection. I digress.
Mark’s only purpose in the film is to service the story. We are given literally no reason as to why he betrays Johnny other than “Lisa is hot.” When Lisa first goes out of her way to seduce him he asks, “The candles… the music… the sexy dress… what’s going on here?” I actually do not blame Mark that in this scene there are no candles or music, but I do blame him for being so slow on the uptake. Lisa is literally caressing him at this point.
Then, their first sex scene takes place on the spiral staircase in the apartment. At first, that seems like a cool, inventive place to do the deed. But on further inspection, it has to be the most uncomfortable setting in the world. Was that Mark’s idea? I have to blame him, as all of the sex Johnny and Lisa have is strictly in bed. Which reminds me, the spiral staircase leads to the bed. Could he really not control his libido for that long?
Mark is the best-looking person in the moving, being played by male model Greg Sestero, who, to his own credit, wrote The Disaster Artist, the book about the making of The Room that James Franco is turning into a movie. However, that does not excuse him for having a plot point in which he shows up without a beard. You may be wondering: was this Lisa’s idea? Does she like him for this? Did he screw up shaving in the mirror? We have no clue. We are just told it’s a big deal because we zoom-pan up to his clean shaven face.
Mark, though, is an awful friend, and not in an aggressive manner that would be funny to watch. He doesn’t so much cheat with Lisa as he lets her cheat with him. He is a passive character, and besides almost throwing Peter off of a roof because he has problems with his pot-smoking, he does very little in the film. The movie would have been worse and therefore funnier if Tommy Wiseau made Mark an interesting character.
The main reason Mike is number five is because he makes this face while getting blown by Michelle. If this isn’t the single-greatest acting moment in the twenty-first century so far, tell me what is. So much is going on here. As I mentioned before, Michelle and Mike like to have sex in Lisa and Johnny’s place, so the facial expression you see is happening while they’re trespassing. However, we have not seen the last of Mike being a great character. When Michelle and Mike are eventually caught by Lisa and Claudette (her mother), after having done the deed, Mike comes back in the room to retrieve his underwear and is caught by Claudette. In a later scene, he recalls this incident to Johnny, describing them as “me underwears.” Truly a god among men.
Also, in a scene that has yet to be explained to anyone, Mike gets pushed into a trash can by Mark, maybe? I can’t tell if it’s on purpose or just bad physical acting. It’s during one of The Room’s famous football-tossing scenes, so we’ll never know.
The Room’s terribleness is mostly fun and harmless until it comes to Lisa. Being about five and a half years away from the first time I saw this movie, I can confidently say that Lisa is a manifestation of pent-up misogyny from Tommy Wiseau. She is literally a character who cheats on her perfect fiancee simply because she is “bored.” And that is the explanation you get when you pry. She just cheats because, I don’t know, that’s what women do. It’s kinda messed up when you think about it, and since I enjoy watching this movie, I try not to.
Anyway, Lisa makes the top four because she is so downright reckless in her schemes. She plays with fire at every opportunity, going as far as to sneak downstairs with Mark to fool around with him at Johnny’s birthday party. Not to mention the fact that she will discuss her affair with anyone who will listen that is not Johnny. Obviously part of this is in how Lisa, in some way, wants to get caught, but a lot of it is far beyond that.
Lisa, however, thinks about everything. Why wait for Johnny to tell you that he wants a pizza? Order the pizza already! Lisa’s attitude towards Johnny fluctuates wildly. Like, at the beginning of the film, you would never expect Lisa to want to cheat on him. They literally bone within the first ten minutes, and all Johnny had to do was get Lisa a red dress. Yet, around the halfway mark, she gets him drunk so she can accuse him of hitting her. If Tommy Wiseau wanted to elicit a reaction of “Bitches be crazy,” he certainly succeeded.
What is most puzzling about her character’s actions, and I think this makes the movie more entertaining is when she and Johnny announce at his birthday that they’re expecting a child. However, when pressed on it, Lisa admits to Steven and Michelle that “There is no baby” and she made it up to make things more “interesting.” What? Is she playing the Sims 3 or something? In what world is it beneficial for her to make things more “interesting?” That’s not something that real people do. Unless she’s based on someone Tommy Wiseau dated, and in that case, I feel very bad for the man.
And, SPOILER ALERT, at the end, when Johnny kills himself, she has the audacity to, leaning over her dead fiancee’s body, say to Mark that “at least [they] can be together,” as if that’s something he’d agree to in that situation. Not only does she cheat unrealistically often, she does it in such a piss-poor manner that it’s impossible to feel bad for her.
Lisa’s mother, Claudette starts the top 3 strong. She is completely superfluous in this movie for so many reasons, and that makes her scenes even more enjoyable. Like, literally every word out of her mouth doesn’t service the story.
There is no use beating around the bush as to what he best moment is. It is this line, which is, without a doubt, the best line delivered by someone other than Johnny. Before you ask, no, this is never brought up again in the rest of the film. She just declares to her daughter that the test results say that she “definitely has breast cancer,” and they move on. It is never referenced again. Lisa shows no concern for her dying mother. Rather than being the life-or-death situation that it should be for her, it is simply another thing she needs to worry about.
Claudette is in this movie because apparently she spends time with her daughter with a ridiculous frequency. This movie takes place over a fairly short time span and she is at their apartment on numerous occasions. Most notably, besides the breast cancer reveal, is when Denny gets held at gunpoint by Chris-R. After learning that he owed him money for drugs, she chews Denny out for being involved with that type of person. Denny, for his part, responds, “You’re not my fucking mother!” leaving us to thank Tommy Wiseau for including such an unnecessary character to be yelled at.
I know I said that the Flower Shop Woman was ranked so low because of her lack of screen time. Obviously, Chris-R doesn’t spend much more time with us than her, so how is he number two? Simple. He holds a (likely) mentally challenged man-child at gun point while wearing a black skull cap. The tone of his appearance is so wildly different from the rest of the movie, any writer-director with a basic understanding of movie-making would have cut it on the first edit. Why exactly does Denny need to have bought drugs? And why didn’t he pay for them? Once again, these questions are never answered.
As Chris-R (who called this by Denny, and credited as such, despite there being no other Chrises in the film or mentioned in the film) yells “Where’s my fucking money, Denny?” repeatedly, it becomes apparent to the viewer that, holy shit, this guy is the best actor in the movie. When he pulls the gun out of the back of his pants, he actually does it like a regular person would. I have literally no problems with Chris-R’s performance, which is great, because he lets the preposterousness of his existence in this film speak for itself.
Chris-R, after being confronted by a concerned Johnny and Mark, is taken away “to the police station,” apparently without putting up much of a fight. This hurts his stock a bit. However, any character in a bad movie who pulls a weapon on the mentally-challenged character is special in my book. So Chris-R is secure in his number two spot.
Is there any surprise? If you haven’t seen this movie, and you really should, don’t think for a second that I’m only putting him number one because he is the main character. He is sincerely the thing that makes this movie as bad as it is. Tommy Wiseau’s writing and directing would be never have been noticed if not for his atrocious acting. The most famous scene of his, is, of course, the “YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA” scene, so there’s a link to it if you want to remind yourself/see it for the first time. It is truly something to behold. Not to be overlooked is the “Oh, hi Mark,” bit, which is also pretty well known outside of people who have seen the whole film. These lines and performances, however, are nothing out of the ordinary for the movie. Tommy Wiseau manages to go the duration of the film without saying a sentence like a normal person. It’s quite the accomplishment.
Johnny is, to put it mildly, an approximation of a regular American guy from the perspective of an alien. He works at a bank: but what does he do? We don’t know, other than the fact that the bank has put his ideas into practice, and that they save money. This job, though, is stable, as Claudette repeatedly reminds us. He has two close friends, with Mark being his closest. How did any of these people meet? We never know. He plays football with his friends? Does he throw a football in an overhand spiral like a normal person? Of course not. He tosses it underhand like a loaf of bread.
He looks, both face and body wise, like a God crumpled up a person like a piece of paper and then unfolded them. And then, on top of that, gave them gangling, long, jet-black hair. Also, God convinced them that they look good in Stevie Wonder sunglasses.
Johnny does not only pronounce things unlike a regular person, he also says phrases no person in their right mind would say, like, “I will record everything!” to himself, after deciding to put a tape recorder on his phone. In addition, he has no clue what a chicken looks or sounds like. He makes no sense.
It’s clear Tommy Wiseau wanted to make Johnny this perfect guy that we would feel deep sympathy for when we realized his life was crumbling around him due to the actions of his horrible fiancee Lisa and his evil best friend Mark. What we felt instead was nothing but confusion. Who is this person, and how can we return them to their home planet?
What is certain about Johnny, though, is that he is exactly who Tommy Wiseau wished him to be. Which is probably the scariest thing of all.
If you disagree with my list, let me know. If you enjoyed it, let me know that as well, if you want. For more deep dives into pop culture, follow this blog and read the stuff that’s already here. More will come.