The film opens with Johnny returning home from Important Job bearing roses and a gift for Lisa.
Actually, no. The film opens with this:
Now the movie starts: Johnny returns home from Important Job bearing roses and a gift for Lisa. The gift is a sexy red dress! Johnny is so wonderful. Denny from next door comes by to say hello and remarks on how Beautiful Lisa is (by the way, if it sounds like I'm being deliberately condescending by describing the movie as if to a kindergartener, I'm not-- this is truly the tone of this film). Lisa and Johnny declare loudly and definitively that they are "going to take a nap" and scurry up the spiral staircase to their bedroom, where they begin pillow fighting and giggling on the bed. Denny joins them and innocently says he 'likes to watch' Johnny and Lisa. Yeah. Denny is kicked out, and less than five minutes from opening credits we have the first sex scene, which is the excruciating antithesis of all that is arousing, sensual, or cinematically engaging.
The next day at :28 o'clock, Johnny gives a rose to his rose as he leaves for Important Job. BUT: Lisa is unhappy! She tells her mother Claudette that she no longer loves Johnny because "he's boring." Claudette tries to talk Lisa off the cliff- Johnny has a shitload of money and he's bought Lisa a ton of stuff, and it's not like Lisa's job in the Competitive Computer Industry is making it rain. Claudette should know, she's been married 47 times and hates men!
When Claudette departs, Lisa calls Mark and invites him over, where she promptly seduces him on the spiral staircase. Sex scene number two. They feel terrible afterwards, and not because they just fucked on a set of stairs- after all, Mark is Johnny's Best Friend, and Lisa is his Fiancée (and, also, Very Beautiful). As they're kissing goodbye, we cut to Johnny, the poor sap, buying Lisa's daily bouquet and greeting an elderly pug in this fan favorite, the most hurried transaction ever committed to film.
The next day, Claudette comes by and mentions to Lisa that she is dying of breast cancer, before casually changing the subject to real estate. Lisa lies and tells Claudette that Johnny hit her when he was drunk. Claudette reiterates to Lisa that, drunken beatings or no, Johnny's a good provider. They both go somewhere else, probably to get pedicures or vaginal saunas or something else scheming bitches are always doing.
Enter Mike and Michelle, the most hateful assholes in this film and the first of a handful of meaningless digressions from the plot (such as it is). Existing solely as comic relief, they use Johnny and Lisa's apartment as an impromptu fuck pad and are caught immediately after the act by Lisa and Claudette, returning from shopping.
In another near-meaningless digression, Denny meets Eminem look-alike Chris R on the roof of their building. Chris R wants the drug money Denny owes him (because apparently that happened) and pulls a gun. Johnny and Mark arrive just in time to disarm Chris R and take him to the police; Lisa and Claudette arrive just in time to shriek loudly and demand exposition from Denny. Johnny returns and dispenses hugs and life lessons to Denny.
Back to the action: Lisa is making saucy calls to Mark. He can't understand why she's being such a slut and riding his pole all the time. Johnny is his Best Friend! In fact, they're having a heart-to-heart about women on the roof of the building right now. Mark tells Johnny a story about a girl he knows who was two-timing her man, and he beat her up so bad she had to go to the hospital on Guerrero Street. Johnny thinks that's a funny story, and he laughs. Mark leaves and Denny comes up so Johnny can have a heart-to-heart about women on the roof of the building with him, too.
Lisa tells Michelle the same lie about Johnny hitting her, then divulges that she is sleeping with Mark. Michelle tells Lisa to stay with Johnny and not be such a skank. Johnny returns from Important Job, and Michelle leaves. Johnny confronts Lisa about the lie she's been telling and they fight, prompting the infamous line "You're tearing me apart, Lisa!"
Lisa arrives home with Denny in her wake and pointed, smoldering glances are exchanged all around. Lisa and Denny squat down next to the perfectly functional living room furniture for no discernible reason, then Mark and Peter have a heart-to-heart about women on the roof of the building. All the male characters assemble and participate in what might charitably (extremely charitably) be called football.
The next day (maybe?), Mark and Johnny meet up in Golden Gate Park to jog and toss a football and generally bro out. In the midst of this, Mark manages to get back home and start making out with Lisa. Before they can get over to the staircase, however, Michelle arrives and catches Mark with his shirt off. He is so embarrassed he immediately teleports back to Golden Gate Park with Johnny.
As Lisa preps for Johnny's surprise party, she gets one final entreaty from Claudette to stay with Johnny. Then it's party time! Lisa gets everyone up on the roof so she can announce that she's pregnant, which she's not, but she wants to shake things up a little bit. Then Lisa sneaks back down to the now-empty apartment to make out with Mark. A nameless character who has never before been seen catches them in the act and monologues on how this insidious betrayal will tear apart the foundation of trust upon which their group of friends is built. Peace is tentatively made, but when Lisa starts dirty dancing with Mark, Johnny starts throwing punches. People get called chickens, cheeping sounds are made, and the party's over.
Johnny is shown more than once riding a cable car in the Nob Hill part of town. Given that he lives in the Marina, and is shown driving a car home from Important Job, it's unclear why he is riding the cable car. At over $5 a pop, it's definitely not the best way to quickly dash across town without giving up your parking spot. It's also why you'll never find an actual local riding on one.
Another enormous snafu most likely boils down to what is simply a continuity error with the script/editing process rather than a miscalculation of San Francisco's geography: Mark meets up with Johnny for some exercise in Golden Gate Park, but in the next scene is back in the Marina getting up to no good with Lisa. The scene after that, he's back in Golden Gate Park with Johnny. At the conclusion of the exercise scene, Johnny and Mark are shown jogging up the Lyon Street steps at Broadway, a distance of 3.5 miles from where Johnny parked his car in the park, yet only .8 miles from their apartment building. If I were to jog 7 miles round trip, I would probably leave the car at home rather than drive 3.5 miles away, jog almost all the way home again, and then return to the car.
Not to mention, Johnny would probably be wondering where the hell his buddy Mark has gone off to in the middle of their football/jogging session. Unless perhaps Mark secretly has an identical twin. Or an advanced hologram. But this is Tommy Wiseau's world we're living in, so it would be insulting if it made sense.
Far and away, the most baffling thing about The Room for those familiar with San Francisco is trying to pinpoint where exactly Johnny's roof appears to be. The ground floor entrance of his building is clearly in the Marina, but given the alternating proximity/distance of various northeastern San Francisco landmarks in the background, Johnny's roof exists in a number of simultaneous dimensions anywhere between Coit Tower and Alcatraz Island. Clearly the logical explanation is that Johnny lives on top of a cloud.
I've also declined to cover in great detail establishing shots including Tommy Wiseau which aren't related to the plot (such as it is). However, for the sake of a well-rounded guide to the movie, I'm including screenshots of Wiseau's "look at me in San Francisco. This sure is San Francisco, all right." scenes, along with maps of where to find the famous sites they record:
Matt Stroud's detailed and fascinating investigation into the real Tommy Wiseau for Verge reveals that Wiseau has been buying properties throughout San Francisco since at least the mid-1980s. One of his acquisitions includes the building which now hosts the spy shop. Sure enough, the parking signage and the placement of a Marriott Courtyard hotel directly across the street match in both reel and real life, confirming that this is indeed the shooting location for the Free Cafe.
Norton's Movie Maps: [gesturing] The guy on the poster, out front?
Clerk: Oh, yeah! Yeah, he owns it.
Clerk: Yeah. From the movie, right?
Clerk: ....it's a really bad movie.
There you have it, you heard it from Norton's first.
Their day of physical exertion concludes with a run up the Lyon Street steps, approaching Broadway from the north and skirting the eastern edge of the Presidio. Not a bad place for some exercise, especially on a clear day!
SF Authenticity: 6/10- Drinks Anchor Steam but gets burritos from Chipotle.
Roses: 24/24 This film is like a Beautiful Woman, I would give it two dozen roses and a sexy red dress every day.
Verdict: Like Tommy Wiseau's ass itself- confusing, horrifying, and yet you can't look away.