The Disaster Artist (2017)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
The Disaster Artist is one of 2017's finest films - a hilarious, compassionate look at a man, Tommy Wiseau, who did what no one would let him do - make his own movie. And no, you need not see The Room to appreciate this film.
James Franco's performance is fantastic, and he leads a terrific ensemble of actors who have great love and affinity for the source material they are so faithfully recreating and adapting for this project.
Somehow finds a way to accentuate Wiseau's eccentricities, difficulties, and frustrating behaviors, while allowing us to see the underdog story that is amplified in a great supporting turn by Dave Franco, as Wiseau's best friend and collaborator.
Hard to peg negatives with the film, personally, but perhaps it gives a bit too much fluff and polish on a strange and bizarre individual, who did treat people very oddly and has not completely earned his victory lap in everyone's eyes.
There are some notable differences in the film versus Greg Sestero's source material, which some may find take too far a leap for legitimacy.
For more mainstream movie audiences, The Disaster Artist may have limited appeal. A comedy about making a bad movie? No matter how good, some folks will take a hard pass at the premise.
Leave it to James Franco to tell the story of Tommy Wiseau and The Room. If you are unfamiliar with those last two references, Wiseau is the rather mysterious writer/director/editor/executive producer of his self-financed 2003 film, often called “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.”
And while thousands of words have already been written about The Room and Tommy Wiseau and all the bizarre facts and anecdotes surrounding the making of the film, well documented by Greg Sestero’s book “The Disaster Artist”, Franco’s film is a wonderful, endearing, and hilarious look at the dreamers who dream and try to make it in the movie business.
Greg was Tommy’s friend and co-star in The Room and his book, adapted by screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Fault in Our Stars, The Spectacular Now), serves as the backbone for Franco’s wildly irreverent look at the curiosity that is Tommy and the story behind how The Room became a reality.
Franco stars as the filmmaker with younger brother Dave Franco portraying Greg. After meeting in acting class, where Tommy strides on stage and writhes and moans “Stella!” from A Streetcar Named Desire, Greg is impressed with the fearlessness and bravery he witnessed on stage and a friendship soon takes hold. Soon thereafter, and much to his mother’s chagrin, the 19-year-old San Franciscan is convinced to move to Los Angeles with the much-older Tommy in pursuit of his dreams of becoming an actor.
James Franco’s performance is fantastic, wearing makeup to alter his look just enough to stand apart from his brother's appearance. Tommy is a man shrouded in mysteries: His age? “Same as you.” Where is he from? “New Orleans.” Is that an accent? “Yeah, New Orleans.” How does he have the money to live the way he lives? “I told you. Money is no prahhh-blemmmm.”
For all his frustrations, Tommy remains inexplicably likable. And despite his stubbornness and wild persona, we can understand that he is one of the millions in L.A. with dreams and desires of being a star. Greg shares those same dreams and after Tommy continues to face rejection by casting directors and producers alike, he tells Greg that he will make his own movie, years later dumping a script on his friend at a diner and demanding he read it, right then and there.
The Disaster Artist transitions from a movie about chasing dreams to a movie about realizing them. And The Room was a trip of a production. Confused on how to shoot a film production, Tommy purchases 35mm and digital film equipment to shoot scenes simultaneously. He hires television showrunner Sandy Schklair (Seth Rogen) to help steer the production and things unravel quickly. The 40-day shoot concludes in approximately 60 days, the film's budget skyrocketing to $6 million. Tommy becomes increasingly frazzled, frequently forgetting lines he wrote in his own script, and is simply not prepared to take on the rigors of a feature-length film production schedule.
And yet, checks keep clearing and people stay, because, well, they need the work. The Room has become a storied part of Hollywood legacy. Dozens and dozens of celebrities have embraced the film and it is reported that Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard watch it monthly with friends. Midnight screenings invite and welcome audience participation and the movie’s DVD sales and cult classic legacy has turned a significant profit for the film.
As director, Franco never judges anyone affiliated with The Room. He properly depicts the bizarre nature of Tommy and gives a remarkable performance in the leading role. Cameos come and go and the movie generates a ton of laughter when we get to the set. However, Franco also shows great respect to all involved and that’s where The Disaster Artist shifts from an “inside Hollywood” comedy into a wonderful movie that speaks beyond its Hollywood connections.
We all have dreams and ideas we have shelved, because of risk, lack of resources, time, life getting in the way, etc. Tommy’s messy and shambolic journey from script to screen is inspiring and given significant respect here, because, at the end of the day – he did it! He made his movie when no one else would.
And so, those props are justly earned. Clearly, the movie has resonated and connected with audiences for nearly 15 years now, and no matter if people love to turn it into a meme, mock it, love it, embrace its undeniable terribleness - people love The Room. That’s not nothing.
The Disaster Artist may fudge the truth a bit here and there, but much like The Room, its heart is in the right place. The detailed recreation of scenes from the original film to this one are painstakingly accurate, in both appearance and line delivery, and the movie embraces the careening, hard-to-define nature of what enveloped more than 400 cast and crew members who shared in the experience of making The Room.
Respect. Love. Praise. A tipping of the hat. The Disaster Artist pays respect to Tommy and Greg, but also to all those who defy the odds and achieve obstacles and goals. The film is simply sublime, and one of the most endearing and funny movies in recent memory.
CAST & CREW
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver, Paul Scheer, Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson, June Diane Raphael, Megan Mullally, Jason Mantzoukas, Hannibal Buress, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Charlyne Yi, Bob Odenkirk, Randall Park, Casey Wilson, Jerrod Carmichael.
Director: James Franco
Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Adapted from: "The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside 'The Room', the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made" by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
Release Date: December 1, 2017