With half of the movie’s 3-4 minute sex scenes out of the way and a mere 1/5 of the movie out of the way, today we give attention to a mere 19 seconds of footage. This is one of The Room‘s most infamous scenes. This is the flower shop scene.
Whenever I watch The Room with people who haven’t seen it before, I demand silence. I tell my friends that, yes, we’ve been having a great deal of fun (and alcohol) thus far, laughing at the movie and making jokes. But the flower shop scene is different. You cannot just make a joke in the middle of the flower shop scene. You cannot interrupt the flower shop scene. You must be quiet. You must catch the whole thing. Not a word must slip past you. You must take in the flower shop scene in its entirety, and then you may laugh.
And, oh, you will laugh.
Where do you begin? How can we tear this scene apart and break it down into everything that doesn’t make sense? The parts make a whole so much more inscrutable the task feels impossible, and there isn’t even that much whole:
Shopkeeper: Can I help you?
Johnny: Yeah. Can I have a dozen red roses, please?
Shopkeeper: Oh hi, Johnny. I didn’t know it was you. (Pause) Here you go.
Johnny: That’s me. How much is it?
Shopkeeper: It’ll be eighteen dollars.
Johnny: Here you go. Keep the change. Hi, doggy.
Shopkeeper: You’re my favorite customer.
Johnny: Thanks a lot. Bye!
Shopkeeper: Bye bye!
That’s it. That’s the entire scene, and it is one of the most wildly hilarious in the film. It’s so short and truncated, it almost reads like poetry. High schoolers could be given this exchange in their literature classes and close read it, searching for the deeper truths it conveys.
And that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to look at the flower shop scene line. by. line.
Okay, not “line by line”.
“Can I help you?”
“Yeah. Can I have a dozen red roses please?”
“Oh hi, Johnny. I didn’t know it was you.”
What’s going wrong here? She didn’t recognize someone at first and she clarified her mistake. Aside from the actress’s atonal delivery of the line – delivered not with a tone of realization or surprise or apology, but with the same tone with which someone might say, “Could I borrow a pen?” – there’s nothing wrong here.
But let’s study the mise-en-scène of The Room, which had better be the first time somebody’s said that. Let’s take a look at the actual physical movement through the given space of this scene. The shopkeeper does not recognize Johnny. The shopkeeper does not recognize Johnny, who says hello, walks the roughly seven steps between the door and the counter through unobstructed open space, and maintains conversation with the shopkeeper the entire time. Unless she was legally blind, she should probably have known it was him.
The only possible explanation for her mistake is that the only thing that changes between his entry and when she figures out just who this man is that he lifts up his sunglasses. Apparently this is enough for her to be totally baffled by who he is.
When the only precedent for how people perceive your character’s identity is how people tell the difference between Clark Kent and Superman, there is maybe something a little questionable about it.
“Oh hi, Johnny. I didn’t know it was you. (Pause) Here you go.”
“That’s me. How much is it?”
This is an easy one – it is out of order. The shopkeeper makes two statements, and then Johnny responds to both of them afterwards. Why does he wait until after “Here you go” to say “That’s me”? Why not say “That’s me” after “Oh hi, Johnny. I didn’t know it was you.” It’s like he’s waiting until he has a second thing to respond to, and then he’s like “Aw, shit, I gotta do both now.”
“How much is it?”
“It’ll be eighteen dollars.”
“Here you go.”
It’s a little stiff, sure, but the humor of this one is – like with a lot of The Room – all in the delivery. Watch this part of the scene again. Johnny says “Here you go” before she finishes telling him how much it costs. As soon as she finishes the word “eighteen”, Tommy says, “Here you go”. Hell, he’s already begun the process of handing her his money before she even starts that sentence telling him how much it is. Why would he even ask?
“Here you go. Keep the change. Hi, doggy.”
Now that is a line of poetry. Johnny delivers these three short sentences seamlessly, with zero pause between them. While the first two make sense to say in rapid succession, the immediacy with which he then addresses the dog makes, say, less sense. He tears through these lines so quickly, this is more like a religious mantra than a customer-shopkeeper-doggy exchange. “Here you go keep the change hi doggy. Here you go keep the change hi doggy. Here you go keep the change hi doggy.”
Now, there’s nothing wrong, of course, with greeting a dog. If anything, greeting dogs just makes the world a better place. Really, it’s just a tacked-on line. Speaking of tacked-on lines, that was nothing:
“You’re my favorite customer.”
The guy you didn’t even recognize?! Sure, I can see why you’d like him, since he hands over his money before you even tell him how much he owes you, but you didn’t recognize him until he took off his glasses, and it’s not like this is a man who blends in a crowd.
Of course, as ridiculous as all of these parts are, it’s the absurd, hypertime whole they make that makes this scene so delightful. This is probably the fastest a person has probably entered and exited a store and got what they came for in the history of time. The scene is so short that everything hits you just faster than you can process the compounding hilarity. The flower shop scene is a machine gun of accidental humor, hitting you with its overlapping, ESP-tastic money exchange, immediately hitting you again with a sudden, blink-and-you-miss-it “Hi, doggy”, and then immediately hitting you again with the shopkeeper’s declaration that, during those last 19 magical seconds, she has decided she simply must tell Johnny that he is her favorite customer.
What’s really so silly about that “You’re my favorite customer” line, though, requires putting the flower shop scene in the context of the movie as a whole. We’ve already gotten Claudette to tell us what a great guy Johnny is. We’ve already gotten Mark to tell us what a great guy Johnny is. We’ve already gotten Denny to… well, whatever the fuck Denny was doing, it definitely conveyed some kind of… admiration. Now that flower shop lady has informed us that Johnny is her favorite character, the message is super clear: you are supposed to love the absolute shit out of Johnny. Everyone and their dog (literally) loves Johnny. Just in case you weren’t aware that everybody loves Johnny with the fire of a thousand suns yet, what the hell, maybe having a flower shop owner tell Johnny what a great person he is will be what gets the subtle message across. Johnny is the greatest, kindest, most incredible man who has ever lived, loved by everyone far and wide, big and small, old and young. AND HIS MAGNIFICENT LIFE IS GOING TO BE DESTROYED.
But for this brief and glorious nineteen seconds of time, Johnny was the flower shop lady’s favorite customer.