‘The Disaster Artist’ Review: From Trash To Treasure
I’m not one of those people who love Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. It’s an awful movie, that was made in all seriousness, and it’s terribleness is why it is so popular. This turd of a film has gained a cult following, but it’s hard to watch sober, as absolutely nothing works and it’s so bad, it very quickly becomes annoying. The one saving grace from The Room is that it inspired James Franco to make a film, aptly named The Disaster Artist, about the process and behind-the-scenes drama surrounding Wiseau and his cast and crew, including his friend, Greg Sestero, who wrote a book from which the film is based.
The Disaster Artist stars James Franco as Tommy Wiseau, a mysterious man with a strange accent and a sketchy backstory that nearly everyone questions. He’s also wealthy, we think. No one knows for sure. When Wiseau meets Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) at an acting class in San Francisco, the two strike up an unlikely friendship that brings them both to Los Angeles to become actors and chase their dreams. While Greg has the looks and talent to book a few jobs, Tommy does not. Greg convinces Tommy to make his own movie, where he can call all the shots, and Tommy writes arguably the worst movie ever filmed, The Room.
The Disaster Artist doesn’t soften any blows, and presents the events leading up to the making of the film, and later the actual production, in all its absurdity. The stories of how Wiseau opted to buy all of the equipment instead of renting, of building superfluous sets, shooting in both film and digital simultaneously, and his odd casting choices, not to mention his inability to remember his own written lines, hiding his lack of talent behind his “artistry.” But the true story of The Disaster Artist is not in the making of The Room, but of the odd friendship between Tommy and Greg. James Franco plays Tommy as a tortured, friendless troll who wasted (at the time) a figure rumored to close to $6 million dollars on a film project to make his one friend happy.
Dave Franco plays Greg as a starry-eyed kid given his chance at his dream, while trying to juggle work, a budding relationship with Amber (Alison Brie), and his relationship ship with Tommy. Dave Franco does a stellar job conveying this drama and letting the laughs come from James’ near-spot-on portrayal of Tommy. And this isn’t James Franco doing a bad impression for laughs. He slides into the role of Tommy with amazing ease, and by the second act, he absolutely owns the character. Both Franco brothers turn career performances here, in a film about the making of the worst movie ever. There has to be some irony there.
The Disaster Artist is chock full of big actors in tiny, cameo-like roles, as James Franco gathered all of his friends for the film. Seth Rogen plays Sandy, the DP who some have argued actually served as the director of The Room, and his snarky lines serves as the audience’s reaction to Tommy and his near-constant off-the-wall decisions. In fact, spotting the who’s who of actors in this production becomes a game for the audience to play.
The script from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, based off of Greg Sestero’s book, doesn’t try to explain why The Room is so terrible. It focuses on the relationship between Tommy and Greg, and the film’s production becomes a side-story. This decision works, as with all of the laughs generated by the Francos’ performances, and of the insanity of the making of The Room, having something solid and real to serve as a foundation — like this odd friendship — is the key to the film’s success. And it does succeed.
The Disaster Artist is a funny, absurd film that turns the worst movie ever made into something enjoyable. I could watch this film over and over, but I never want to watch The Room ever again; sober, high, or in any way. I’ve seen it twice in my life, and that is two times too many. James Franco has made a wonderful film that reminds us how awful that film is, and he literally turns trash into treasure in his endeavor. While The Room languishes in midnight screenings and has a cult following, The Disaster Artist is poised to reap some rewards, and as award season marches on, critics are taking notice.
The Disaster Artist is rated R and is in theaters now for a limited run, but is rumored to get a wider release closer to Christmas.
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