A Bad Sync: The Room
You thought the film was bad, but on its 15th anniversary we take a look at why the soundtrack was everything that you don’t want from a sync…
Die-hard film fans will have heard of The Room, and if you haven’t then you’ll have heard of its counterpart The Disaster Artist, a 2017 James Franco comedy-drama that recounts the shooting of the aforementioned feature. The Room – by actor and filmmaker Tommy Wiseau – is widely considered to be the “worst film ever made”, a highlightable quote from Variety critic Scott Foundas being that the film prompted “most of its viewers to ask for their money back – before even 30 minutes [had] passed.”
For the uninitiated, the film follows the relationship between Tommy (Wiseau) and his partner Lisa (Juliette Danielle), who instigates an affair with Tommy’s best friend Mark (Greg Sestero) after feeling underwhelmed by their relationship. In the interim since its 2003 release it has gone on to gain cult status thanks to it’s bad script, plot holes and unintentional humour, and upon reading Sestero’s memoir of the film – also entitled The Disaster Artist – Franco saw an opportunity to shed light on the budding real-life friendship of Wiseau and Sestero and their lives following the infamy of the film.
But back to the music. It doesn’t take long before the first of the soundtrack’s four schmaltzy R&B slow jams kick off in the most indiscrete fashion, as Tommy and Lisa cavort uncomfortably (for both them and viewers) in the bedroom. With lyrics including “I would stand in the way of a bullet, I would run through a forest of flames/ I will climb the highest of mountains just to show you I love you, I will,” Kitra Williams, Jarah Gibson and Wayman Davis’ ‘I Will’ sounds akin to a made-for-the-dollar-video-bin rom-com written by Disney composers after a few too many glasses of wine.
As stomach-achingly laughable as it may be, the track effectively surmises what The Room is about: cheap, cheesy and more concerned with crude lust than any semblance of romance. And ‘You Are My Rose’ doesn’t fare much better, with its Latin touches, melodramatic beats and often-indistinguishable lyrics.
What makes the soundtrack to The Room even more poorly conceived is that those wonderfully tacky slow jams are wholly out of place when considered with the rest of the score. Written by Mladen Milicevic – a music professor at Loyola Marymount University who has collaborated with Wiseau on projects since The Room – the orchestral score is a misjudged blend of medieval strings and piano underlaid by eerie tones. Originally intended by Wiseau to be more horror than poorly executed melodrama, he has since retrospectively characterised the film as a black comedy. He is still wrong, but recognising the comedic value of the film allows scope for some of the production decisions – including the score – to enter the realm of satire. What other reason would a soundtrack that predominantly resembles that of a Y2K fantasy RPG (especially the film’s main theme and ‘Red Dress’) be doing in The Room?
It is precisely this disconnect between what is happening onscreen and what our ears are hearing that makes the soundtrack to The Room so bad. Through years of exposure, we have all become accustomed to associate certain sounds and certain genres – and these connotations are deep rooted. They cannot be undone, no matter how much Tommy Wiseau wills it. A good sync evokes an emotional connection with the audience and what they are watching. A bad one just makes them laugh.