THE DISASTER ARTIST

What’s there to say about Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 masterpiece The Room that hasn’t already been said? Simply put, it’s the greatest bad film ever made. In a more complicated way, it’s The Godfather of terrible filmmaking. Completely inept in every single way. A hilariously pathetic attempt by a man with a gigantic ego to make a serious, introspective, and emotional character drama that falls flat on its face. Since its release, it’s been constantly quoted and referenced in popular culture, continually finding an audience through sold out midnight screenings across the globe. The movie itself isn’t the most interesting thing, though. It’s Tommy himself, and the hectic story behind the film. 

Based on his autobiographical book of the same name, The Disaster Artist follows aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco). Struggling with his confidence and finding work, he meets the bizarre and enigmatic Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). While Wiseau is incredibly strange, he’s fearless in his pursuit of being an actor and a filmmaker. Seeing the potential in each other, Greg and Tommy move to Los Angeles to become stars. This leads to Tommy writing his screenplay The Room, which he wants to make with Greg. They start making the film, but during production, darker sides to Tommy’s personality are slowly revealed. Was making this movie worth it? 

When it was announced that [James] Franco would be directing and starring as Tommy Wiseau in an adaptation of The Disaster Artist, I had one primary concern that would completely make or break the film for me: [James] Franco’s portrayal of Wiseau. Tommy Wiseau just isn’t like any other person on this Earth. I can personally attest to this, as I actually met Wiseau at a screening of The Room (I still have the autographed football). He has a mystery to him that he never wants to reveal, a bizarrely unique accent and cadence to his speaking, and a facial structure that looks like an alien wearing a human mask. For a film exploring the person Wiseau is, the performance was key. I am pleased to say that after only 30 seconds of [James] Franco’s performance, I was completely sold. Sure, he doesn’t exactly look like him (that would take an impossible amount of prosthetics and makeup), but he completely embodies who Tommy Wiseau is. 

The thing is, there’s not really a whole lot of the film devoted to Tommy’s character. There are moments in the film that question his true motivations and morals, asking if he’s a hero or a villain. I didn’t really feel either. Mostly just a passionate, yet delusional, man. Tommy isn’t the main character of this story, though. Greg is. It’s all about his journey of wanting to make it big as an actor, and realizing that it’s not just difficult, but at times impossible. Dave Franco plays the role well with the perfect mix of enthusiasm, nervousness, and confidence. He’s very emotional and hasty in his thinking, quickly moving with Tommy to LA without much of a thought. It’s only when things progressively get worse and worse when he starts seeing the real picture. [Dave] Franco has excellent chemistry with [James] Franco, where you don’t even realize it’s two brothers playing opposite each other. They’re both incredibly talented actors, but in different ways. 

It’s just too bad that [James] Franco chose to direct this too, as the narrative would have had a better impact and focus with a more confident director. It’s not that his directing is bad, but just felt very flat and uneven. The film starts off as an almost buddy comedy about making a movie, then shifts into a behind the scenes stories of the making of The Room. There’s not enough time devoted to either aspect to make it all feel cohesive. There’s a lot of handheld documentary-esque style, which worked in some scenes to heighten the chaos of the situations, but can we lock it down for the regular conversation scenes? He also has a hard time juggling the tonal shifts, as there’s a sharp turn into mega uncomfortability, but without the humor to back it up. 

While watching this, I kept thinking about Brigsby Bear, one of my favorite films to come out this year. They’re similar in that they deal with social outcasts setting out and pursuing their dreams, much to the chagrin of others. What The Disaster Artist lacked for me, which Brigsby Bear was filled with, was heart and emotion. As awkward and cringeworthy as some of the stuff in Brigsby Bear was, the earnestness and genuine love for the story and characters held it all together. [James] Franco clearly loves the story of The Room, but he and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber didn’t do much to give the story surrounding it much heart or soul. 

As a huge fan of The Room, though, it was very entertaining seeing Franco’s portrayal, some of the behind the scenes elements, but I never really had an emotional reaction to it. However, I don’t think you have to had seen The Room in order to enjoy The Disaster Artist, as it stands perfectly fine on its own. Unfortunately, it seems like [James] Franco and company just tried to do too much. It’s an adaptation of Greg Sestero’s novel that tells the story of The Room, while also a celebration of that film, and it’s an exploration on themes of artistic passion and ego. I wasn’t quite sure what The Disaster Artist was trying to be completely, but I still had a great time experiencing it.

Also, if James Franco wins the Academy Award for Best Actor and has Tommy Wiseau accept it, this entire project would have been totally worth it. 

7.5/10

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