Say Something Nice: THE ROOM (2003)

Oh hai, Mark!

There is nothing redeemably good about The Room.

Now wait, wait, hold on, don’t click away from the article just yet. Yes, it’s pretty common knowledge that The Room is precisely the cult classic that it is because there is nothing about the film that works on a technical or narrative level, and the resulting amalgam of scenes feels less like a cohesive film than an attempt made by aliens who have ever only heard of films through passing reference in human books. And however much we love to gawk and marvel at Tommy Wiseau’s unintentional comedy, there’s a champion of The Room who has only just started to get his due: Greg Sestero.

Sestero, who plays the infamous Mark in Wiseau’s pet project, was more than just an actor for The Room. Observant viewers will also note that Sestero is credited as the film’s line producer, which essentially means that on top of knowing his lines and getting in character for his scenes, the daily tasks of managing the set, cast, and crew fell on his shoulders. Acting and line producing are two jobs that do not and cannot mesh well, as even one of them is designed to be a full-time task to either promote the artistic integrity of the film or to ensure that production runs monetarily, smoothly, and on schedule, respectively. According to Sestero’s memoir The Disaster Artist, this was an exhausting enterprise, and it was only made worse by Wiseau’s eccentricities as a director.

The Room was Wiseau’s first attempt at any sort of professional filmmaking, whether he was on camera or off, which raises all sorts of red flags when one considers that he was attempting to produce, direct, write, and star on his first outing. However, he is also a notoriously temperamental person, prone to mood swings and frustrated stubbornness in the face of reasoned argument. This is an extremely difficult trait to work with in a director, which is a job that doesn’t necessarily require vast reserves of empathy, but does require an acknowledgment of the basic collaborative aspects of filmmaking. Wiseau was often late to set and was frugal with paying for things like air conditioning and water for his cast and crew, which left Sestero to function as the apologetic leader that Wiseau refused to be and further necessitated through his over-ambition.

So why would Sestero do all of this? Well, Wiseau is his best friend. Perhaps he is an unlikely best friend, but the two had shared a passion for acting for about five years prior to The Room’s production. Sestero knew that this film was important to Wiseau, so Sestero made personal and professional sacrifices to allow for this project to be completed, even as it went over schedule and over budget.

Now, watch this scene from The Room, keeping in mind all the daily struggle that Sestero had to endure, coping with a mismanaged set in assistance to a man who relies on him as a friend but who also asks way too much of him and is completely oblivious to the ludicrousness of the script they are attempting to film.

All things considered… that’s not too bad, at least as far as Sestero’s performance is concerned. He delivers his admittedly bizarre dialogue with a straight face—even if he does sneak in a self-aware “why did I say that” look at one point—and he plays off of Wiseau’s mumbled delivery and offbeat timing like a pro. It’s not really a good or compelling performance, but if he hadn’t been carrying that scene with the necessary gravitas there would have been nothing for Wiseau’s inherent weirdness to bounce off of. Factor in how many separate takes it took to film that scene over a number of days (yes, that scene took days), and the poise that Sestero shows is Herculean.

This doesn’t make Sestero’s performance a hidden gem of The Room, nor does it speak to any unseen quality in the film. However, if the purpose of this series is to Say Something Nice, maybe this time we can give some credit where it’s due to the monumental work that Greg Sestero put in behind the scenes of The Room and still managed to deliver a professional performance in between all the off-camera madness. If there was ever a performance that warranted an A for effort, this is it.