The Disaster Artist Turns Trash Into Treasure
Review by Aaron Haughton
Just as Robert Pattinson shed himself from his Twilight skin with this year’s Good Time, James Franco has also shed himself of his past failures as a writer/director with his latest film, The Disaster Artist. He's finally achieved something from a director standpoint that can actually be watched, and he’s taken his acting to another level with his portrayal of Tommy Wiseau, who, to those that aren’t familiar, is the bizarre, enigmatic (bordering on extraterrestrial) “visionary” of the cult favorite The Room (not to be confused with the Brie Larson film). And, The Disaster Artist works largely because it’s not just another movie about the making of a movie — it’s got a legitimately interesting and odd story behind it that’s delightful to see unfold on screen. It also helps that both Wiseau and his good-bad, non-sequitur masterpiece are sublimely intriguing cultural phenomenas that are good for a laugh, of which The Disaster Artist has plenty.
The film is based of Greg Sestero's book of the same name, and it chronicles Greg (played by Dave Franco) and his relationship with Tommy (played by James Franco) from the day he encounters the mysterious Tommy in acting class through The Room's troubled development and eventual cult success. With a phenomenal supporting cast including Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Allison Brie, Paul Scheer, and Zac Effron, The Room is brought to life in ways you've never seen before. And it's just as glorious as you'd hoped.
There's a lot to love here, and the good news is that you don't have to see The Room to enjoy it — though, it will probably cause you to want to check it out. To those who haven't seen Tommy Wiseau's disasterpiece, Franco's film may play like a drama with roof-raising laughs, but to those fanatics out there, it's the companion piece they've always wanted.
The film shows all shades of Wiseau and doesn't just just reduce him to be the butt of all the jokes. I mean, there are absolutely some laughs at Wiseau's expense — it just wouldn't be an honest movie without them — but The Disaster Artist paints a more complex portrait of Wiseau. It praises him for his accidental achievement, but also doesn't shy away from the ugly side of his narcissism and antics on set. Basically, the film manages to do the impossible: make Wiseau, the most alien of people, feel like a real human being.
The performances are great all around, but Franco is clearly the standout. This is by far the best he's ever been, and he absolutely burns up the screen with this performance. I never felt like he was acting, he just was Wiseau. Ali Graynor also deserves a shoutout for her impeccable portrayal of The Room's Lisa. Not only does she look the part, but her timing in the reenacted scenes is flawless. Dave Franco is a believable enough Sestero, but doesn't quite fit the bill height-wise. I was a little worried about the Franco brothers playing Greg and Tommy, but I never really felt like they were related and the sibling rapport added layers to their character's friendship.
I really enjoyed this film, and all of the complaints I have with it are fairly minor. I didn't really like that the film opened with talking head interviews of celebrities gushing over The Room because it felt like an ego stroke for Wiseau and a little awkward. In hindsight, I can see it bearing a bit of context to those who are unfamiliar. Still, I thought maybe it would come full circle and conclude with the rumored clip of Franco as Wiseau interviewing Wiseau, which must be left off as a deleted scene. Franco also tends to shoot his films with a loose handheld feel, which I didn't feel was wholly warranted for this project. It's definitely merited during the scenes that occur during the production of The Room because Wiseau had a cameraman filming behind the scenes, but the entirely of The Disaster Artist is shot with this wannabe Cassavetes docu-realist handheld that pulled me out of the film on a few occasions. Other than those minor quibbles, the film was solid. Almost perfect.
One thing I wish the film would've explored a bit more was the enigma of Wiseau. There are a lot of mysteries left to be desired, like his origin, his age, and his source of wealth. Franco had only based his film from Sestero's book, which Wiseau said was "only 50% true," and Franco never spent much time with Wiseau until the SXSW Film Festival this past year. I understand why Franco and Rogen wanted to cut Wiseau out of the creative end of things because he can tend to be very demanding and controlling; however, maybe spending some time talking to him could cut through some of Wiseau's intentional mystery and shed some light on his puzzling background.
At the end of the film, reenacted scenes are shown side-by-side the actual scenes from The Room, and it's amazing to see how close they actually are. I'm hoping that Franco make a full blown shot-for-shot remake that will come as a special feature because that's definitely something I'd love to watch. Definitely stay in your seats for the entirely of the credits or else you'll miss out on a little extra treat.
Overall, the film work so well because it comes from a place of love and appreciation, for both The Room and Wiseau, that rings true throughout the whole production and radiates from the screen. It manages to churn art out of trash, and tells a story that nearly everyone should enjoy.
Rating: 4 Eastern European accents outta 5.
What did you think? Did The Disaster Artist do justice to The Room? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!