'The Disaster Artist'
Is it possible to spin the worst movie ever made into a good bio-pic? Can walking enigma/punchline Tommy Wiseau be turned into an inspirational figure? Apparently, if you’re James Franco, the answer to both questions is “Hells Ya.”
It’s hard to imagine many other people would have dared to try. Even though the ever-ambitious Franco has struggled whenever he added “director” to his hyphenate credits in the past, somehow making a Tommy Wiseau movie turned him into a talented filmmaker. Read into that what you will. I’m sure he did.
Based on the book by Wiseau’s almost accidental accomplice Greg Sestero, ‘The Disaster Artist’ plays like a first-person plunge into the insanity of ‘The Room’. Oddly, it’s not necessary to have seen the trash cult classic to appreciate Franco’s flick. As a matter of fact, it might be even more entertaining to watch this hilarious, bizarre, and oddly touching tale unfold and then realize that ‘The Room’ and Wiseau are real at the end.
Dave Franco plays Greg, a wannabe actor with a talent deficiency problem. James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, a mysteriously accented, aged, and wealthy oddball who slides his way into Greg’s life and eventually suggests that they move to L.A. to become movie stars. When the jobs don’t come, Wiseau makes the movie happen himself.
On the one hand, that’s an inspirational story of budding artists pulling up their bootstraps and making a big play in show business. On the other hand, the movie they make is one of the most notoriously misconceived of all time. That irony clearly interests Franco, who portrays Wiseau (as both actor and director) not as an embarrassing punchline but as a tortured soul and gentle eccentric who intended ‘The Room’ to be an autobiographical passion project. He just didn’t have the talent (or mental capacity) to pull it off. That’s actually kind of a sweet story, with Wiseau daring to be himself and pushing for Greg’s dreams because he just might be the trash auteur’s only friend. James Franco doesn’t answer any of the mysteries that have surrounded Wiseau since ‘The Room’ caught on, but he does humanize the cult icon into a mildly tragic and well-meaning artist. He’s not wrong. It’s just not the takeaway most people have about Wiseau.
‘The Disaster Artist’ rolls through all the greatest hits of ‘The Room’ and its making with good humor and driving momentum. Almost every supporting role comes from a popular comic and ‘Room’ superfan (Seth Rogen, Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukous, Judd Apatow, etc.), yet it never feels like a sketch comedy cameo festival. Everyone gets their laughs, but stays true to Franco’s vision of presenting the making of ‘The Room’ as a tale of broken friendship amongst outsiders. It works far better than it has any right to, with the brothers Franco providing hilarious, touching, and shockingly accurate portrays of Greg and Tommy as the beating hearts of the film.
Somehow, ‘The Disaster Artist’ is one of the best bio-pics in years and proof that James Franco isn’t crazy with all his wild directorial ambitions. Hopefully the film plays to more than just a predictable crowd of ‘The Room’fans. It’s actually a pretty damn good movie. How the hell did that happen?