1955; James Dean playing Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) screams “You’re tearing me apart!”; cements a cinematic legacy.
2003; Tommy Wiseau playing Johnny shouts “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!”; cements a rather different kind of legacy.
It’s kind of baffling to think how much the reputation of those four words has devolved over the past 15 years. The Room co-star Greg Sestero notes in his book The Disaster Artist how, at the time of writing, YouTube views (that excellent metric) for the former scene from Rebel Without a Cause were close to being leapfrogged by the latter. By now, Wiseau has almost certainly caught up, to the dismay of film historians worldwide.
The now-infamous line resides in the weird netherworld between the second sex scene and the birthday party; where practically nothing plot relevant happens. After finding out that his future-wife Lisa has accused him of physical abuse, Johnny goes to confront her. After a string of unsatisfactory answers from Lisa (whether they were meant to be unsatisfactory is left ambiguous), Johnny fully lets his anguish show, and B-movie history is made.
Is it because it’s a poor facsimile of a classic movie moment that this scene has become the signature scene of The Room? If so, it’s becomes rather ironic considering that Wiseau originally wrote it as “You’re taking me apart!” having misremembered Dean’s iconic line. With the impending release of the film adaptation of The Disaster Artist this month, perhaps it can be redeemed. An addendum needs to be added to the above timeline:
2017; James Franco playing Tommy Wiseau playing Johnny shouts “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!”; cements an Oscar nod?
The world holds its breath.