Room (2005) was distributed with ads implying it was a supernatural horror film. In consequence it got some murderous reviews.
It's actually a strange, small, independent arthouse film about a dumpy middleaged Houston housewife & mom. She is having an emotional breakdown & dreams of a mysterious room, a dilapidated loft as empty as she feels her life to be.
It's a good movie, a fine piece of acting hinging on Cyndi Williams' performance as Julia; & for her fine work she was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award, while the director was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award.
Really this film should've been targeted to the audience that adores John Cassavetes, or perk up when they learn it premiered at Sundance. But distributors can't help but try for the biggest easy audience out there, thus packaged the dvd as horror or a thriller, disappointing whoever hoped for either. Anyone interested in Jungian studies, mental health, artfilms, or the position of women in society, will have many more ways of connecting with this unpresuming yet brilliant little movie.
Julia works at the the Bingo Paradise, & is acutely aware she's a white trash gal with a white trash job in a white trash world. To top it off she has a vicious boss who is ripping her off for pay.
Home life is not much better. An underpaid husband (Kenneth Wayne Bradley) is no provider. Their combined income won't support two adults & two kids. He may love & need her, but it hardly shows. A hint for the comfort of his embrace is rebuffed.
Jules (Alexandra Kiester) her teenage daughter is rebellious. Nikki (Hannah Nicolas) is a whiny youngster. Christmas approaches. They don't have a dime extra for presents for the kids.
Even with her second temporary job delivering phonebooks, money is an endless worry. Then their are her migraines, which the pain pills don't lessen. When she's in the midst of blinding headaches, she has weird dreams or hallucinations; she hears mechanical sounds, dripping water, & sees waves in black & white. In time these unformed dreams come into clearer focus. She sees a large empty loft with windows.
Watching Julia struggle in a crap job, or waddling through supermarket to muzak, I began to deeply feel for her. I liked her. I felt her agony. "I'm tired. I'm really tired right now." It's so simple & horrible.
One day a migraine causes her to drive the car off the road. When she returns to consciousness she seems to have an altered perception. She sees omens in a sign, in the sky, everywhere. She sets out to rob her asshole boss at the Bingo Paradise, then runs away from home, abandoning husband & kids. She catches the next plane out of town.
Following her new omen-guided instinct, she arrives in New York city, where she unpacks her few things in a dive hotel. She begins to quest through the city, believing as she does that something is drawing her toward the empty room.
Her adventures are swift & simple. She runs into a woman named Alex (Gretchen Krich), an old friend she'd known as Suzy, from school days in Houston. Alex is as depressed as anyone. She came to the big city to be an actress. All these years later she still sometimes does auditions. "Wait here, I'll be right back," says Julia, & ditches the gloomy lonely woman, never to see her again.
She's picked up by a guy in a bar who calls himself Big Tex (J. Shanon Weaver) & wears a cowboy hat. He's a complete dork. She brings him to her hotel room to get laid. She has other experiences throughout New York, which is grubby, dark, phoney, neon, tragic, insignificant, sometimes scarey.
Hers is like a quest through the Sheol of mediocrity, always convinced that she will at any moment penetrate the veil, find the empty room, or at any rate, some degree of meaning.
[SPOILER ALERT!] One angst-ridden dawn, she starts to follow arrows. When you become aware of arrows, they are everywhere, on signs, drawn on walls. The arrows lead her to Room 501, in which she finds a noisy rave. She leaves quickly. She sits on the roof hallucinating the room. She seems totally catatonic, having lost herself in the schizzy world of the imaginary Room. [END SPOILER ALERT]
At this point, I was thinking, "Man oh man that's gruesome. I'd end this film right here if I'd made it, as there'll never be a more unfortunate moment." And so indeed it ends. Credits role. A dispiriting tale, beautifully done.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl