‘The Disaster Artist’ (2017) | Movie Review

Few things please me more than watching a film so incompetently put together and misguided that I can’t help but laugh. Is it mean? Sure. I understand these films come from people with pure intentions who thought they were making something grand, yet the absence of craft cannot be ignored. The perfect blend of undisciplined earnestness is hard to come by, and sitting high atop that list is The Room, written, produced, directed by, and starring Tommy Wiseau, who is a true mystery of a man. He is someone with an unspecified background, the ability to finance a multimillion dollar movie without anyone truly understanding where the money comes from, and a unique, compelling yet off-putting energy that can only be described as Tommy Wiseau. Everything about his demeanor radiates a strange naiveté, making him a fascinating figure to follow.

James Franco really is the perfect person to delve into this man’s story. Franco himself has a strange energy and constantly dipping his toe into various topics that you can’t really tell if he is ironically or honestly interested in. As an actor, he never makes the obvious choice and does have the ability to be both truly great on screen (Spring Breakers) or unbelievably awful (Oz: The Great and Powerful). All of his quirks, interests, and contradictions suit this particular filmmaking figure much like Tim Burton making a film about legendary B filmmaker Ed Wood, and The Disaster Artist is the highpoint of Franco’s career as both an actor and a director.

The film, adapted from the book of the same name by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero, follows Sestero (Dave Franco) as a young actor trying to make it falling into a friendship with Tommy Wiseau. When their careers are not working out, Wiseau suggests they make their own film and begins his journey to create The Room, which would end up changing their lives forever, just not in the way they thought.

In another filmmaker’s hands, The Disaster Artist could have devolved into a total mockery of Wiseau, and that is something I’m sure many people would want to see. We all have been laughing at him for over a decade now because of this movie, and that would be the logical extension of that. Franco recognizes the humor inherent about Wiseau, but he never treats him unfairly. At this point, punching down at him wouldn’t be satisfying. Treating him humanely as someone with passion and problems makes for a far more satisfying experience. Franco may not get the Wiseau voice one-hundred percent accurate, but the total essence of him is captured, which is more important anyway than precise mimicry.

That is not to say The Disaster Artist isn’t full of laughs, because it is. Especially if you a true affection for The Room, as I do, the film is filled to be the brim with in-jokes and references, which could cause the non-The Room aficionados in the audience to turn their heads around them in confusion. Honestly, I do not know how much enjoyment one can get out of the film who has not seen The Room. This is not an experience I can divorce myself from, obviously. I think you may not find it as funny, but the character study Franco gives you will be satisfying enough. A story of artistic passion and friendship are not exclusive to Tommy Wiseau, and that is the cornerstone of The Disaster Artist. Let’s be honest, though. If you haven’t seen The Room, you should see The Room.

Franco populates the film with a who’s who cast including everyone from Seth Rogen to Josh Hutcherson to Jackie Weaver to Melanie Griffith to everyone in between (my personal favorite feature was the inclusion of Jason Mantzoukas, June Diane Raphael, and Paul Scheer who host the How Did This Get Made? podcast that covers terrible movies), plus a cavalcade of actors and filmmakers as themselves, yet none of them ever feel out of place or too glamorous or important to exist in this world of terrible film. A new famous face showing up never pulls you out of the reality of the picture, as sometimes that kind of cast can. They all exist to serve the story of Wiseau and Sestero and do so wonderfully.

James Franco, for me, has been one of the most frustrating figures in modern filmmaking. He can be infuriating to watch both as a director and an actor, and I am so glad I can finally not just support a film by him but think is one of the best of the year. It is almost too perfect for how well suited he is to this story, and there is a chance the collision of personalities never meshes this great again for Franco. For the time being, though, I can say The Disaster Artist is a triumph. The love of The Room may come from irony, but The Disaster Artist gives you a legitimate reason to love and support one of the worst films ever made.

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