No, this is not a Funny or Die sketch.
The Room is widely heralded as one of the worst films ever made. Written, directed, and starring the quirky and mysterious Tommy Wiseau, the film was released in June of 2003 to universally negative reaction. In the following years, however, The Room has gained a cult following, with dozens of midnight screenings attended and merchandise sold that has since made the film profitable and turned Tommy Wiseau into a beloved figure. A book chronicling the making of the film written by Wiseau’s co-star and friend, Greg Sestero, called “The Disaster Artist: The Greatest Bad Movie Ever” was released in 2013 to universal acclaim, and caught the attention of one of Wiseau’s biggest fans, actor James Franco. Franco has taken it upon himself to tell the story of Wiseau’s attempt to make it in Hollywood by directing and starring in an adaptation of Sestero’s memoir, The Disaster Artist.
The Disaster Artist sees Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) struggling to achieve his dream of becoming an actor due to his lack of confidence. He then meets Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), a classmate of his in an acting class in San Francisco, and is mesmerized by his vulnerability on-stage. The two begin an unlikely friendship, which sees them move together to Los Angeles with the goal of becoming matinée idols. When the two are rejected by Hollywood, Wiseau decides to make his own movie, entitled The Room, in the hopes of finally achieving success and a Hollywood ending.
When the trailer for the film first appeared online, many, including myself, thought it was a Funny or Die sketch. That no one was actually making a movie about the making of arguably the worst movie to ever grace the silver screen. And while many now adore The Room and categorize it as a film that is “so bad, it’s good”, I am not one of those people. The Room is a bad film made by an amateur who had enough money to do it. Nothing more, nothing less.
While there is no doubt hero-worship occurring, James Franco is tremendous as Tommy Wiseau. Sure, there are times where it feels as if he is parodying Wiseau, but he is able to portray Wiseau as a sympathetic figure you root for and an off-putting on-set monster all at the same time with the careful dexterity we have come to know James Franco by. Dave Franco also showcases his acting chops finally with his performance as Greg Sestero, and shows he’s capable of delivering good character actor work. The two share many scenes together in the film, and their impeccable chemistry makes their friendship and semi-homoerotic relationship shine on-screen.
The film’s final two acts are nothing short of fascinating, as they focus mainly on the making of The Room. While I am not one of the members of the film’s cult, it is fascinating to see just how in the world the film got made. Scenes showing The Room‘s troubled production and the difficulty of working with Wiseau will no doubt add to The Room‘s and Wiseau’s legend, and deliver some of the funniest scenes in the entire movie.
Much like The Room, The Disaster Artist does have somewhat of an amateurish feel about it. This is due to the fact that its director, James Franco, is not very experienced in this field. There are scene transitions that come across as clunky, and would have fared better perhaps if the film were in the hands of more skillful director. And while much praise should be given towards the Franco brothers for their seamless chemistry, there’s a point when the two decide to move to Los Angeles where I felt myself groaning at their over-excitement over them taking this next step, as it is clear by this point the two have developed a special bond that does not require more showing, but instead more telling.
As stated earlier, I am not a person who has a love for The Room. One of the problems that hinders The Disaster Artist is the film’s over reliance on people loving and praising The Room. The film opens with celebrities applauding the film and Wiseau, and as a person who only admires Wiseau for his gumption to make his own movie and not the movie itself, the opening felt like an unnecessary add-on. The film also closes with a side-by-side comparison of The Room‘s most iconic scenes and those scenes being re-enacted by the actors in The Disaster Artist. Had the film cut-off just five minutes earlier, I wouldn’t have left with the feeling of over-adoration for a film that I do not share the same feelings for, which somewhat left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
The Disaster Artist is still a fine adaptation that does its subject matter justice and further illuminates the mystery of Wiseau and his beloved creation. While fans of The Room are no doubt in for a treat, non-fans may grow wary of the film’s unnecessary over-adoration of its topic. However, The Disaster Artist succeeds due to its terrific lead performances and admittingly compelling story, and will more than likely find itself as an awards contender since it is a movie about making a movie. Hollywood loves to tell such stories and pat themselves on the back for telling them, even though the end result could potentially be hypocritical considering Hollywood rejected The Disaster Artist‘s subject many years earlier.
Rating: 3/4 Stars. Pay Matinée Price.
The Disaster Artist stars James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutchinson, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Jason Mantzoukas, Hannibal Buress, Melanie Griffith, Paul Scheer, and Sharon Stone. It is in theaters December 1st.