The Disaster Artist
One last quick review as we head towards the end of the year round-up.
Struggling to fulfil his ambition of being an actor, Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) befriends the all-round strange Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) after seeing his “fearless”, yet incompetent, performances in an acting class. Their bizarre friendship eventually leads to Hollywood, and to Sestero getting entangled in The Room, Wiseau’s directorial effort to make it big in tinsel-town, but the would-be auteur’s demented decisions on set soon push their relationship to the breaking point.
The Room will forever hold a treasured place in my heart, and The Disaster Artist, based off Greg Sestero’s book on the filming of the masterpiece, is a movie for fans of The Room, and largely for fans of The Room only. Those who have never seen the adventures of Tommy, Lisa, Mark and Denny will probably be lost here, as Franco’s film veers between being an all-out love-letter to Wiseau and The Room, and an almost documentary lookback at the creation of “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”.
Franco is truly excellent as Wiseau, capturing the inherent strangeness of his utterances, his alien-like demeanour, and that off-putting sense that he might just come out and say or do anything he damn well pleases any time he opens his mouth. His brother, Dave is a suitable foil for Tommy in the role of Greg, decidedly more supplicant and downtrodden. Both are dreamers and both desperate for fame: and while it’s easy enough to get behind Greg, The Disaster Artist struggles in its depiction of Wiseau, in terms of how it presents him as a somewhat charming and likable figure, who will do anything or pay anything to make it big, but contrasts that with his utterly appalling behaviour every other scene. One of the key things that haunts Wiseau is that he wants to be the hero while looking like a villain: The Disaster Artist takes this idea and runs with it, but the end result is a depiction wherein it’s hard to root for Tommy in any way, shape or form.
But, as fans of The Room, you might get beyond that for the dramatic re-enactments of how the whole thing came together: Chris-R’s threatening of Denny is the first scene shot, and neither Tommy or Greg are prepared for the power in Chris-R’s performance (Zac Efron playing opposite Josh Hutcherson), yet Tommy can’t come up with the answer for how old the Denny character is supposed to be. During a sex scene Tommy acts atrociously towards his female lead, Juliette Danielle (Ari Graynor), humiliating her in front of the cast and crew for no clear reason. And though he has seemingly inexhaustible wealth with no clear origin, Tommy won’t pay for air-conditioning or water, leading the elderly actress playing Lisa’s mother (Jacki Weaver) to collapse: Tommy asks if she’s fallen asleep.
All of this calls to what the film is largely about. It’s probably at its best when its less about the friendship between Greg and Tommy (that isn’t entirely accurate to the real story, where Sestero did The Room largely for financial reasons, and not out of any devotion to Wiseau) and more about why the cast and crew do the movie, or as an examination of whether unintentional comedy should be celebrated by the creator. But The Disaster Artist is muddled on those points, too obsessed with recreating The Room, as the impressive but largely pointless serious of comparisons that play over the credits demonstrate.
Paul Scheer, who has a role in The Disaster Artist, once described The Room not memorable explicitly because it was a bad movie, but because “it’s a fascinating movie…everything about it is like ‘I would never have thought to do it like that’” and that really does capture why The Room is so well-watched at this point. Everything about it is so strange, so weird, in its origin and execution, that you can’t help but over-analyse it even as you laugh at every “Oh hi” or Tommy’s creepy laugh. The Disaster Artist isn’t a great film in its own right, but for those like me, it’s a nice addendum to The Room, but that’s about as far as it goes. Partially recommended.
(All images are copyright of Warner Bros. Pictures).