The following contains what may be considered spoilers for The Room (2003). However, it could be argued that it is impossible for The Room to be spoiled. Even if you knew the entire story, you still wouldn’t see any of it coming.
The Room is full of incredible scenes and moments.
From the nonsensical majesty of the rooftop “Oh, hi Mark” emergence to the terrifyingly preposterous “sex” scenes to Claudette’s extremely casual “I definitely have cancer” announcement, the movie is so absurd and tries so hard to be taken seriously that it becomes hilarious.
But nothing can match the complete mayhem and utter refusal to approximate anything approaching real human interaction of the flower shop scene.
At this point, I’ll pause just to make sure you are aware of the cinematic phenomenon that is The Room. If you’re not, it’s frequently called the best bad movie of all time or the Citizen Kane of bad movies, though neither label actually describes the experience of watching this film.
Written and directed without a trace of irony or self-awareness by Tommy Wiseau, it’s the story of a man whose girlfriend cheats on him. As far as I can tell. The story is beside the point. And while the 19-second flower shop scene doesn’t contain any pivotal revelations or actions, it perfectly encapsulates the ludicrous alternate reality these characters seem to be living in.
Here it is:
If this is your first time witnessing the scene, you may have just passed out and/or felt your spirit leave your body. That's totally normal.
But what did you just see? Let's break it down.
Occurring at about the 20-minute mark, the scene was shot on the last day of filming. Johnny (Tommy Wiseau) is picking up flowers for his girlfriend, Lisa (Juliette Danielle). So he stops at Anniversary Flowers & Gifts For All Occasions. (It’s a real flower shop, so the name isn’t necessarily Wiseau’s call, but it sounds like these flowers and gifts are for anniversaries AND all occasions. Seems like you could have just gone with the “all occasions”.)
The scene is scored like the beginning of a horror movie. Ominous. Foreboding. This is not a nice place. The only thing blooming in this flower shop is deep misery.
Clerk: Can I help you?
Johnny: Yeah, can I have a dozen red roses please?
So far, very straightforward. A man going into a flower shop to ask for some flowers. The dialogue doesn’t exactly match with the way Johnny’s lips are moving, but that happens sometimes when you have to record the dialogue after a scene’s been shot.
But there’s something about the clerk’s flat line reading that suggests she may be completely dead inside. Perhaps years of working in a flower shop have stripped her of her humanity and voice inflection. Perhaps she’s been inhabited by a soul-devouring ghoul. It’s important not to rule anything out.
Then things take a turn.
Clerk: Oh, hi Johnny, I didn’t know it was you.
Wait. You didn’t know it was Johnny because he was wearing sunglasses? That made the difference?! Look at this guy! Who would not recognise him?!
Clerk: Here you go.
Johnny: That’s me.
What? What’s you? The roses that seem to have been set aside for you even though you just asked for them a few seconds ago?!
Johnny: How much is it?
Clerk: That’ll be 18 dollars.
It's weird enough that no one is moving their mouths for these lines, but then Johnny's money comes out WELL before she has the time to say it’s 18 dollars. What is happening?!
Johnny: Here you go, keep the change. Hi doggy.
OK, it’s not great writing to have two characters use the same expression like “here you go”. And I’m not sure people tip flower shop clerks with a “keep the change” move like that and then carry the flowers upside down.
But then there’s the “hi doggy”…
It’s a weirdly organic moment delivered with what could be described as genuine emotion, at least compared to pretty much anything else in this movie. And according to Greg Sistero in The Disaster Artist, his book about making The Room which James Franco adapted into a movie last year, Wiseau didn’t immediately notice the dog was on the counter. And when he did finally notice, he improvised the “hi doggy” line.
At some point, he also asked the flower shop owner, who was playing herself, if the dog was real.
IF IT WAS REAL!
And now we come to the coup de grace…
Clerk: You’re my favourite customer.
Why did she say that?! Why is he her favourite customer? Who says that after such a quick flower transaction?! And why are you telling him this when he’s halfway out the store and his back is turned to you?!
Also… YOU DIDN’T EVEN RECOGNISE HIM WITH SUNGLASSES ON! NOW HE'S YOUR FAVOURITE CUSTOMER?!
For some reason, this is the line I remember the most. The one that haunts me. Like the whisper of a demon… You’re my favourite customer. You’re my favourite customer...
Johnny: Thanks a lot. Bye.
Clerk: Bye bye.
And that's it!
Why was the dialogue like that? Why do all the lines come right after each other in a way that in no way resembles the way people talk to each other? Why did we even need this flower shop scene? So we know Johnny is popular with the flower shop clerk? So we can see him being nice to a dog?
Who was that woman hunched over the counter like she’s on the 25th pint at her local, signing divorce papers? Does she need help? Was SHE at any point the clerk’s favourite customer?
Of course, by the end of the movie, we never learn the answer to these and millions of other questions because The Room is not concerned with your rules and your logic. It only wants to lead you to the top of a hill and push you down the other side so you tumble over and over again, never knowing which way is up, until you reach the bottom, bewildered and exhausted from laughing. At which point you’ll only be able to mutter a few faint, searching words…
“You’re my favourite customer.”
If it's your thing, you can follow Nick on Twitter. Either way, you should absolutely watch The Room on SBS VICELAND...
Watch 'The Room'
Wednesday 13 January, 10:15pm on SBS VICELAND (NOTE: No catch-up at SBS On Demand)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Tommy Wiseau
Starring: Tommy Wiseau, Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero, Philip Haldiman