The Disaster Artist Review
Oh, hai James Franco. You make good Hollywood movie.
Deep down in my Man Cave at home, I have hundreds and hundreds of movies in my home theater. One of the films amongst my collection is “The Room.” It’s been dubbed the “Citizen Kane” of bad movies, but its also developed a cult status, and has had sold out screenings take place all around the world. Now, why would I buy the “Citizen Kane of Bad Movies” and add it to my collection? Possibly for the same reason why its developed a cult status. Don’t get me wrong, “The Room” is a incoherently bad movie, on a narrative and logical level. But there is something about the strange performance of Tommy Wiseau, the director, writer, producer and lead star of the film, which is, dare I say, endearing. The film is so willfully bad that its funny. And its crazy to me that Wiseau set out to make a drama, and ended up making a comedy.
“The Disaster Artist” is based upon a book by Greg Sestero, who was the second lead in the film “The Room.” Apparently, Greg Sestero was an aspiring actor living in San Francisco in the late 1990’s when a met Tommy Wiseau. Tommy was an odd fellow, who loved deep American values and he loved movies. He sounded as if he had an Eastern European accent, but when asked, he would say he’s from New Orleans, Louisiana. Greg was struggling in his acting classes, but Wiseau saw something special in him, and he invited Greg to Los Angeles with him (because he apparently had an apartment in BOTH San Francisco and Los Angeles) so that they could pursue acting together. Just as long as Greg didn’t ask about Tommy’s shrouded past nor talk about Tommy to their peers. After many years of failed attempts to break into the acting scene, they decided to make a movie themselves. Wiseau buys top-of-the-line camera equipment, hired personnel and they got right to work. Tommy never disclosed where he was getting his money from, but apparently costs for the film ballooned to five million. The shooting of the film itself was a nightmare for many involved, simply because Wiseau had no directorial experience.
Greg’s book is intended to be autobiographical and Wiseau claims none of it, if any at all, really happened. But James Franco shoots the book in an honest yet heartfelt way. There are moments of “The Disaster Artist” that are laugh out loud funny, and moments of deep, personal anguish. I always get a tad nervous when movies try to walk the tightrope between drama and comedy, but James Franco pulls it off flawlessly. Not to mention that James Franco disappears into the skin of Tommy Wiseau, becoming the man completely. I don’t know how many of you have actually seen “The Room” or heard Tommy Wiseau talk before, but he does sound like he’s from Eastern Europe and while he seems incredibly nice, he does come off a little odd. James Franco captures that with a powerful accord. I don’t know how Academy voters are going to react to this, but I absolutely believe that James Franco deserves the nomination for Lead Actor this year, as well as a Best Director nod.
The rest of the cast is equally solid. I will let you all in a little secret here, I have never been a huge fan of either of the Franco brothers. I’ve always thought Dave has ranged from good to mediocre, and James absolutely makes me cringe when I watch him in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” movies. But I have to say that Dave also delivers an incredible performance. Full of innocence and excitement and you feel this, you feel his emotions. In fact, “The Disaster Artist” is filled with lots of actors I do not normally like who deliver some good performances. Zack Efron does some brief yet strong work, and in his couple of scenes, he had me in stitches. Seth Rogen does great work here, as does Alison Brie. Josh Hutcherson. Jackie Weaver. Hannibal Buress. Paul Scheer. Everyone down to the smallest cameo, like Bryan Cranston. Everyone delivers. Everyone makes their moments in front of the camera count, no matter how small their role may be.
“The Disaster Artist” could have been a shameless vanity project. It’s a gamble that it got made in the first place. But what James Franco does is focus on an endearing friendship that buds between two unlikely people. The movie has some insightful things to say about friendship, and how it’s a joy some days and how other days it can be a chore. But it also says that we need to keep our eyes open and try to get to know all the people we meet in our lives, because we never really know if those people will change our lives for the better. Not only that, but the film also has some smart comments on the creation of art in Hollywood. It’s a tough business to break into, and that can sometimes destroy people. But when thinking of art, no matter if its movies or music or whatever, once you’ve created it and delivered it to people, it belongs to the audience. Tommy Wiseau set out to make a drama out of the room, but something else was released in theaters in July 2004. You may have set out to say something with your art, but what translates out to the audience is what it ultimately will be about. I honestly don’t know if I can name another movie that really dissects that creative process in such a funny and smart way.
“The Room” may ended up being a disaster. But James Franco captures that sometimes wild, sometimes enraging, sometimes sincere and all-around crazy time perfectly in his movie.
FINAL GRADE: A