THE DISASTER ARTIST – Review
Ironic that the creator of what many label the ‘worst film of all time’ gets one of the best Hollywood-themed biopics ever made about him (I could have written this in 1994 after seeing ED WOOD). In 2003, writer/director/star Tommy Wiseu’s THE ROOM was released into a single theater in Los Angeles (to qualify for the Oscars). That movie, ostensibly a drama about relationships and love, was a laughingstock; poorly shot, amateurishly acted, horribly written, a general trainwreck, but it attracted an immense, and still-growing, cult following. Fans revel in its insanity at midnight all over (it’s at The Tivoli in St. Louis Dec 15th and 16th). I don’t typically buy into the whole “a film so bad it’s good” concept, and THE ROOM doesn’t really fit that category anyway. Wiseu’s film is so clearly a labor of love, so clearly a passion project that it’s impossible not to find charm in its craziness. Greg Sestero costarred in THE ROOM and wrote the book The Disaster Artist, his account of the making of the film as well as his friendship with Wiseau. I’m pleased to report that THE DISASTER ARTIST, the movie directed by James Franco who stars as Wiseau, is every bit as fascinating and hilarious as I hoped it would be.
THE DISASTER ARTIST gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that nobody knows where Wiseau, this strange dude with his greasy black locks and creepy eurotrash accent, comes from, or where he get his “bottomless pit” of financial funding. THE DISASTER ARTIST is a portrait of a genuinely clueless man with a passion for fulfilling his dream without the talent to do so. It’s told through the eyes of Sestero (played by a likable Dave Franco), a struggling young actor who found himself in the right place at the right time when he first met Wiseau in a San Francisco acting class. The pair moved to Los Angeles where, after finding their acting prospects drying up, they decided to embark on the project of making their own movie. The second half of THE DISASTER ARTIST chronicles the highly calamitous shooting of THE ROOM right up to its crazy premiere. Franco recreates many of the bizarre and incompetent choices that Wiseau made shooting his opus, such as filming his movie on 35mm and digital film simultaneously at ridiculous expense, buying the equipment instead of renting it, building pricey sets for locations he could have used for free, and firing crew members at will. Viewers familiar with THE ROOM will recognize the pathetic football tossing, marvel at how many takes it Tommy needs to remember his lines, and enjoy the cast and crew’s reaction to his creepy, bad-aim lovemaking technique.
Franco, along with screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber could easily have made THE DISASTER ARTIST a mean-spirited jab, but the film mostly avoids easy, patronizing laughs and instead shows the near heroic qualities of this patently untalented artist. That Wiseau never seemed to get wind of his shortcomings is what makes him here so irresistible. Franco delivers his lines with a perfect riff on Wiseau’s accent and off-putting lack of affect, even when screaming “You’re tearing me apart Lisa!” in existential anguish just like his hero James Dean. Both vocally and physically, Franco’s simply astounding, and he’s surrounded himself with a sublime supporting cast. Seth Rogan as Sandy, THE ROOM’s exasperated Director of Photography, is the closest thing THE DISASTER ARTIST has to an audience surrogate, and he gets the film’s biggest laughs as he deals with bizarre demands from Wiseau he doesn’t even understand. Jacki Weaver has some good moments as the confused actress whose breast cancer revelation is dropped for the duration of THE ROOM’s screenplay. Melanie Griffith, Sharon Stone, Zac Effron, and Scott Hutcherson all shine in smaller roles. Outrageously entertaining, THE DISASTER ARTIST stands out as one successful outsider’s tribute to a failed kindred spirit and is highly recommended. It’s the funniest film of 2017 and one of the best.
5 of 5 Stars