WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2017)
Director: James Franco
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver
He who dares…
Let’s not pretend or sugarcoat anything, The Room is an abysmal movie. Tommy Wiseau’s personal masterpiece is an utter gutloaf of a production. However, fourteen years after its release, its spirit lives on and has only grown since that now-legendary day. Held up as a cult classic, deemed ‘so bad it’s good’ and regularly in the top one of the worst movies ever, The Room and its enigmatic creator wrote themselves into the annals of cinema. Now, The Disaster Artist (lifted from the memoir of the same name by The Room alumni Greg Sestero) is here to chronicle the making of ‘the worst movie ever made’ and shine a spotlight on the enigma that is Tommy Wiseau.
San Francisco, 1998. Five-and-a-half hours down the I-5 South from the glamour of Los Angeles. Aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is facing the depressing truth that maybe he isn’t cut out for the acting game. His mindset is briskly amended upon seeing an (awful) acting class performance from the mysterious Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) – a man whose age, background and, later, funds are shrouded in odd secrecy. The pair strikes up a friendship based on their shared dream of making it big in Tinseltown and eventually make the move to LA together to chase the fantasy. After Sestero is signed by an agency but receives zero in the way of offers, and Wiseau is rejected by seemingly everyone he encounters, just one idea remains if their dream is to become a reality – create and star in their own movie. Step forward, The Room – complete with chaotic schedules, narcissistic directorial delusions, constant crew fall-outs and a non-story captured by horrendous actors – the project that threatened to destroy the two men’s friendships and dreams, but ultimately brought them closer together.
Not quite as frenetically obsessed as Wiseau was with The Room (director, producer, writer and star…), James Franco settles for simply directing, producing and starring in The Disaster Artist. Question is, how do you make a good movie based on such a bad movie? Simple, by the looks of it – use the recollections of one of the stars of the inspiring movie, introduce pathos to the proceedings and include a wonderful lead performance. With Sestero’s account and Wiseau’s blessing, The Disaster Artist is a successful recreation of the events that led to the ‘greatest bad movie ever made.’
With the enigmatic (and downright weird) Wiseau, James Franco could easily have created a parody performance of the man, ensuring the dreamer was cast as nothing more than an eccentric idiot. However, the movie quietly goes to lengths to humanize Wiseau and, whilst obviously ensuring his bloody-mindedness is captured – such as shooting the movie in 35mm and HD Digital, creating exact sets of real (free) locations and mandating that his arse be fully visible in sex scenes - allows his vision and belief in his dreams to be the prevalent thread followed. Franco Sr. is superb in the role, capturing the accent and mannerisms to a T and is nearly unrecognisable at times. Franco Jr. is also extremely good as the driven yet helpless Sestero, struggling in the shadow of his friend. Smaller performances from the likes of Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, Jason Mantzoukas, Sharon Stone, Zac Efron, Bryan Cranston and Judd Apatow add strange star power to proceedings, though none are stretched too far in minimal roles.
Should you see The Room before venturing into The Disaster Artist? For me, yes, or at the very least become acquainted with the key scenes within it, otherwise, many of the gags and references may pass you by which would be a huge shame as the painstaking attention to detail here is commendable. As the second half of the movie moves into gear and the making of The Room takes over, not only does this movie become better, but it also becomes funnier as the references come thick and fast. It’s not just humour, The Disaster Artist deals with the fractured relationship between Tommy and Greg, as the former's personality begins to overshadow the production and jealousy is rife as Greg enters a relationship with Amber (Brie). Far from being just the strange, sunglassed oddbod, Wiseau is shown to be domineering and insulting to his crew and his friendship with Greg is…creepy, at times. However, these moments are frustratingly brushed over and at the movie's end, Wiseau remains just as much a mystery as he did before the movie began.
With the key message in the movie being friendship and the prospect of chasing your dreams, The Disaster Artist ends up with an inspiring and surprisingly poignant feel to it - if La La Land delivered a breezy, jazzy ode to chasing your dreams, then The Disaster Artist delivers the grafting, near-hopeless path towards the same destination. Boasting a magnetic performance from James Franco, The Disaster Artist provides an entertaining and incisive (though thin) experience centered on a genuinely naff experience and will leave you quoting the legendary lines of The Room once more.
Oh, hi Mark…
December 30th 2017