Film Review: ‘The Disaster Artist’

James Franco’s hilarious masterpiece is approximately one less degree of fun than catching a midnight showing of ‘The Room’ and hurling plastic spoons at the screen.

‘The Disaster Artist,’ based on the award winning non-fiction book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made, written by Greg Sestero and Tom Bisell, takes us from inception to production to reception of what is quite probably the biggest cult film of the 21st century, ‘The Room.’ At the heart of the film (and the film within the film) is the unique friendship between aspiring actor Sestero (Dave Franco) and the Jay Gatsby to his Nick Carraway, Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), a weird, vampire-looking enigma of a person with a dubious origin story and a nebulously obtained fortune whom he met in acting class.

The success of the film lies in its underdog narrative. Fed up with the Hollywood machine, Sestero and Wiseau set out to make their own movie, to achieve their dreams of fame. And to this end, Wiseau is a compelling person/character well beyond his unplaceable accent and eccentric nature because he just doesn’t have it. Unlike other underdog flicks, the power isn’t latent inside him the whole time. It’s not achievable through believing in himself nor is it hiding under the sofa cushions. “It’s not gonna happen for you. Not in a million years,” says Judd Apatow in the trailer.

Well it does. Wiseau makes it happen anyway. ‘The Room’ has become a remarkable success in spite of itself—albeit not the type of success hoped for, but an un-self-aware masterpiece beloved by audiences all over the world nevertheless. It’s inspiring in a way; if it’s possible for Wiseau, we think, it’s possible for us too.

Franco nails his Wiseau from the ghoulish appearance right down that weird little staccato laugh. He makes a strangely relatable, sympathetic character out of a man who seems to be living on another planet. Though Wiseau is an unchecked egoist on set, he’s also kind of endearing, and the film makes you (briefly) feel bad for laughing at ‘The Room.’ In homage to the master (Wiseau wrote, directed and stared in ‘The Room’) Franco even directed the project in character.

If one flaw exists in ‘The Disaster Artist,’ it’s that it glosses over how Wiseau really feels about his work being laughed at; in the film he turns on a dime between disappointment and acceptance. Even today it remains unclear how fourteen years of midnight movie acclaim has shaped him—it’s just part of the enigma that is Tommy Wiseau.

While it probably isn’t necessary to have seen ‘The Room’ in order to enjoy ‘The Disaster Artist,’ do yourself a favor and see it anyway. At the very least watch a highlight reel on YouTube, as the funniest parts of the latter film revolve around uncannily accurate scene recreations, and you’ll be able to fully appreciate the casting of Zac Efron as Chris-R, Nathan Fielder as Peter, and Josh Hutcherson as Denny.

But don’t fret if you can’t make it to ‘The Room’—everyone will find something to enjoy here, be it the humor, the heart, or the bevy of cameos. If all else fails you, there’s a side-by-side comparison of the best scenes from ‘The Room’ and their remade versions.

Photo courtesy of IMDB

‘The Disaster Artist’ hits theaters December 8th

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