Film Review – The Disaster Artist
The Disaster Artist
As we exited the screening of The Disaster Artist, my friend asked “Would that movie make sense to anyone who hasn’t seen The Room?” Neither of us are qualified to answer this, having seen the so-perplexingly-bad-it’s-good opus countless times before, but it did stick with me.
Is it a requirement? I can’t exactly imagine someone being driven to see this without having seen The Room, but let’s imagine a James Franco completist (they have to be out there) going into this thing cold. Is there enough there to make you walk away feeling like you know our century’s Ed Wood, Tommy Wiseau? I’m inclined to say no. Does that matter? I honestly can’t say.
Based on Room-costar Greg Sestero‘s uproarious and surprisingly touching book, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, this is a tale of two aspiring (and shitty) actors with dreams of making it in Hollywood, despite their many warranted rejections. Directed by and starring James Franco as the outrageously enigmatic Wiseau, The Disaster Artist peaks with one of its very first scenes in an acting class. Sestero (Dave Franco) marvels as newcomer Tommy takes the stage, yells unintelligibly for Stella, and begins climbing the rafters. What he lacks in talent he more than makes up for with gusto. It’s one hell of a meet-cute.
Tommy quickly takes Greg under his wing and invites him to live with him in an L.A. condo he can mysteriously afford on the side. Frustrated by the lack of opportunities instantly presented to them, Tommy decides to write his own movie, full with co-starring role for his main man Greg. After a rather hackneyed writing montage, his script is completed and The Room is born. Greg’s initial reaction to the script is, let’s say, bewilderment, but when Tommy reveals he has literally millions of dollars stocked away to put into the project, Greg jumps. Tommy gleefully tells him how high.
A crew is soon assembled, and the cavalcade of comic actors filling the roles is as exciting as it is exhausting. We’ve got Seth Rogen, Paul Scheer, Nathan Fielder, Charlyne Yi and Bob Odenkirk among countless others. Sadly, the only one who seems to be given more than a puffed-up cameo is Rogen as the constantly exasperated script supervisor. There’s a lovely scene in which he goes to cash his first check from Wiseau and is rightfully amazed that it clears. Just who is this guy?
You won’t find an answer to that here. The bulk of the movie showcases the making of The Room and its many pitfalls (not to mention gratuitous ass shots.) Crew turnover is commonplace and Tommy continuously fails to deliver the lines he himself wrote. Greg is pressured to turn down legitimate roles in order to stay afloat this sinking ship. Eventually, the film wraps and a premiere is set. Unfortunately, this is where the movie lost me for good.
Many rich details from Sestero’s book fell by the wayside, including the fact that Tommy paid out of pocket for a billboard of his movie to remain above an L.A. highway for several years. There is a shot of it, but no explanation provided. Furthermore, it compresses the cultural impact of The Room all into its movie premiere scene, when the phenomenon didn’t hit full stride until well after the fact.
Nitpicks aside, The Disaster Artist is a surprisingly touching portrait of one of the weirdest men to ever inexplicably hit the big time. Maybe see The Room first though.