The Disaster Artist (2017)
The Disaster Artist (2017)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.

Release Date: December 8th, 2017 MPAA Rating: R

Director: James Franco Actors: James Franco, Dave Franco, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Seth Rogen, Jacki Weaver, Paul Scheer, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, June Diane Raphael, Megan Mullally

 


 

W

hen timid, self-conscious Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) first spies the impudent, unapologetic, and wildly untalented Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in a San Francisco acting class, he becomes determined to meet and learn from the audacious oddball. Overlooking Tommy’s numerous eccentricities, Greg befriends the secretive older man and soon discovers that the two share the same dream of becoming a famous Hollywood actor. So when Tommy invites Greg to be his roommate in Los Angeles – as a first step in achieving their goal – he jumps at the opportunity.

But it’s not long before the mismatched duo realizes the mountainous difficulties of breaking into show business … and despair steadily creeps into their plans. Just when Tommy is ready to give up, Greg inspires him to approach his vision from a new angle: to direct his own movie, which will allow them both a chance at stardom. But despite Tommy’s mysterious access to the substantial funds required to make an independent feature, including purchasing equipment outright and hiring an extensive crew to aid them, his absurdly unconventional style and lack of moviemaking prowess begin to hamper the film’s development, placing the two friends at odds.

“They wanted to break barriers in filmmaking,” asserts one of the many celebrity cameos during the talking-head interview opening, which exists solely to give “The Disaster Artist” a sense of realism for its “Based on a True Story” proclamation. During this gimmick, the implication that Tommy Wiseau is an auteur is way off base; he’s not a conscientious moviemaker attempting to design grand comedy; his film is comedic because of its awfulness. Ultimately, he’s just nuts. He might be fearless, passionate, and persistent, but he’s also something of a lunatic. And, he’s rich.

As the story gets underway (based on the making of the real film, “The Room”), it quickly becomes apparent that leads James Franco and Dave Franco are doing expert impersonations of wacky personas. Tommy has such a distinct manner of speaking (along with an accent that he claims is either nonexistent or influenced by his New Orleans upbringing), with a personality that borders on extraterrestrial. Most of the actors portraying other actors don these impersonations with a well practiced touch; but a few, like Seth Rogen as script supervisor Sandy Schklair and Paul Scheer as director of photography Raphael Smadja, aren’t recognizable as anyone but themselves, which gives the film a strange disassociation with being a representation of real people. Although Tommy and Greg are the primary players who have significant baggage from their visibility in performing in “The Room,” it would have been a more appropriate choice to cast the background crew with lookalikes as well. Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Hannibal Buress, and a few others are also recognizable, but their parts are drastically more minimal.

But comedy is the main goal here, and the humor is nonstop and absolutely hysterical. As viewers witness Tommy’s bizarre laugh, question where his money comes from, and wonder why Greg bothers to stick around, it’s continuously outrageous to see these characters interact and communicate. Perhaps the film’s greatest accomplishment is the humanization of Tommy (who likely seems more villainous and vampiric in real life, particularly as it becomes apparent that he’s insanely jealous of Greg’s attention, he fuels himself on Greg’s faults, he probably made a $6 million movie exclusively to retain Greg’s indebted friendship, and the odd details of “The Room” steadily metamorphose into an autobiographical account of Tommy’s personal history) and the sympathy derived from his failures.

Is he really just a misunderstood loner? Could he really have existed in the real world for so long with such a complete lack of experience with social situations and genuine friends? Whatever the truth (Wiseau remains full of secrets, though with the hopeful reach of “The Disaster Artist,” someone from his past might resurface, bearing answers), the ride is full of laughs.

“What is this movie about?” Just as it couldn’t get weirder, the picture transitions into a second part: the making of “The Room” itself. If Tommy was inexplicably odd around other people, he’s even less sensible in front of and behind the camera. Audiences will benefit enormously from having seen “The Room,” but it may not be a prerequisite. Even without the exuberant references and nods to the film within the film, “The Disaster Artist” can be appreciated for its stranger-than-fiction plot (which is so wild, in fact, that many onlookers will surely accuse it of excessive embellishments) and the misadventures of comically incompetent craftsmen.

– The Massie Twins

  • 8/10