The Disaster Artist

‘The Disaster Artist’ Review: Best of the Worst

'The Disaster Artist'

Movie Rating:


Writer/director/star/entrepreneur/belt enthusiast Tommy Wiseau and his magnum opus of ineptitude known as ‘The Room’ have been a peculiar cultural fascination over the last decade. A movie about them was inevitable. Rather than a sneering documentary, director/star James Franco made a comedic Oscar season bio-pic that positions Wiseau as an outsider artist and sympathetic lost soul. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Against all odds, ‘The Disaster Artist’ is one of the best movies of 2017 and arguably features James Franco’s finest performance.

Based on the novel of the same name by Greg “Oh Hai Mark” Sestero, the film unfolds not from the broken perspective of Wiseau, but the actor who co-starred in his infamous train wreck. In a hilarious bit of sibling casting, Dave Franco stars as Greg. He’s a not particularly talented actor, but he’s just attractive enough to catch the eye of the occasional casting agent. He meets Tommy in an acting class where he’s blown away by the mysterious stranger’s ability to cut loose on stage. They form an uneasy and bizarre friendship. We get glimpses of football matches, peculiar bonding with children, and other little nuggets that will find their way into Tommy’s big movie. Other legends like Wiseau’s mysterious fortune and unconfirmed origin pop up as well, with the former landing the pair an expensive L.A. apartment to pursue their dreams. After a variety of humiliations that make it clear neither of them is going anywhere in show business, Tommy eventually writes a script that they can both star in and then starts shooting. If you’ve heard any tales of woe from the set of ‘The Room’, you’ll get them here alongside plenty of footage of the original disaster meticulously (and hilariously) recreated by the Francos.

Possibly the best thing about ‘The Disaster Artist’ is its tone. Obviously, the movie has to be funny. Given the subject matter and the wall-to-wall cameo cast of comedian ‘Room’ aficionados that Franco lined up (including Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow and Paul Scheer among others), it’s no shock that laughs come constantly and furiously. I mean, the story is ridiculous and everyone knows it. However, they all have tremendous affection for the movie that’s surprising and welcome. As game as Franco is to make you giggle at Wiseau, he also admires the guy in an odd way. The film presents Wiseau as someone who attempted to make a movie from his gut and on his own terms as a way to cope with personal trauma, but just had no idea of how to write one, shoot it, or act, not to mention how to relate to people. There’s sadness and tragedy in how Wiseau is shown, in addition to all the inevitable hilarity. By the end, you actually sympathize with Tommy and cheer on the film’s ironic appreciation because it means in some perverse way that Wiseau’s art was appreciated. That’s quite a magic trick for Franco’s film to pull off.

All the performances are delightful, but James Franco steals the show as Tommy. How could he not? It’s almost impossible not to impersonate Wiseau after seeing ‘The Room’. Franco does that perfectly – meticulously even, delivering beat-for-beat recreations of the cinematic disaster’s greatest hits. Beyond that, he finds a humanity in all the oddness. He doesn’t add anything that isn’t there or pander for praise like so many previous bio-pics. Instead, he plays the walking enigma that is Tommy Wiseau with a pained soul beneath a bizarre exterior that’s partly constructed and partly pure. He’s a sweet and charming lost child doing his best in a world he doesn’t understand. Again, James Franco communicates these complicated characterizations while perfectly impersonating camp icon Tommy Wiseau. That almost shouldn’t be possible.

Will any of this appeal to someone who isn’t already part of the cult of Tommy Wisseau and ‘The Room’? Possibly. The movie isn’t quite as endearing a statement on lovable outsiders finding a home through art as Tim Burton’s ‘Ed Wood’. This is a very specific character study that will be fascinating for those who hold a place in their heart for weirdoes. But let’s face facts, a movie about the making of ‘The Room’ was always intended to appeal to a niche crowd. They’ll eat it up. If you can appreciate the great and delightful irony that James Franco gave arguably his finest performance and delivered his best work as a director by making a film about the most notoriously awful actor/filmmaker of the era, and did it all in character as the walking punchline, then a) we can be friends and b) get thee to ‘The Disaster Artist’ immediately.


  1. I NEED TO SEE THIS!!! Big fan of ‘The Room’, and I loved ‘The Disaster Artist’ book (glad they didn’t keep the ‘The Masterpiece’ working title for the film; this should always have been called ‘The Disaster Artist’; it’s a perfect title). I can’t wait to see this. How is Chris-R as played by Zac Efron? (the original Chris-R, Dan Janjigian, was the best actor in ‘The Room’; faint praise, but still). Does Tommy Wiseau have a rumoured ‘required cameo’, and what does he play? Is the ‘hi doggy’ scene recreated?

  2. Bolo

    Earlier this week I caught the film ‘Best F(r)iends’. It’s the one that reunites Sestero and Wiseau, with Sestero doing the writing and directing this time. Sestero was in attendance to introduce it and he said his motivation was to write a role that better fit Wiseau than his own self-miscasting in ‘The Room’. I would say he succeeded in that respect. It doesn’t make a case for Wiseau as a great actor or anything, but Sestero definitely gets him. He understands Wiseau’s voice and appeal and writes a role that actually fits him and dialogue that makes perfect use of his delivery.

  3. Clark

    Will any of this appeal to someone who isn’t already part of the cult of Tommy Wisseau and ‘The Room’?
    Well, I had never seen ‘The Room’ and I loved ‘The Disaster Artist’. It’s really funny and sweet. And the whole audience cheered throughout.

    • Other reviewers seem to agree with you, Clark.

      Peter Debruge of Variety also gave the film a positive review, saying it had a “genuine capacity to delight, whether or not the audiences in question have seen The Room.”

      Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, saying: “As a director, Franco succeeds beautifully at bringing coherence to chaos, a word that accurately describes the making of this modern midnight-movie phenomenon. Do you need to see The Room to appreciate The Disaster Artist? Not really.”

  4. Saw it yesterday. This was the first ‘test screening’ I ever attended. Fox is releasing this internationally, and they wanted to test the waters and see if there was enough demand for a full-release. The (small) theater was packed, with die-hard fans of ‘The Room’. I don’t have any idea if this will appeal enough to the average Belgian theatergoer.

    Anyway, what an absolute joy. Hilarious, touching, well-written and expertly performed by most of the cast. I wish they had recreated the ‘me underwears’ scene (both actors from the ‘chocolate is the language of love’ scene are underused), but that’s just personal preference. James Franco is quite amazing. His ‘ha ha ha’ laugh is spot-on, and generated huge laughs, even after the fourth time. Cool they could secure real James Dean footage, too.

    Great, great stuff. I really hope this scores some Oscar nominations, just to complete the delicious meta joke: bad movie => good book => excellent film

  5. Csm101

    I saw this last night. It was a very small auditorium, but fully packed. The crowd loved it. It was very funny. I’m wondering if someone who isn’t familiar with The Room or Tommy Wiseau will appreciate the movie as much. The Zac Efron role was great, but I still think Channing Tatum should’ve done it 😀. I’m definitely going to have to read the book now.

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