If I had done a list this year of my personal most anticipated movies of 2017 “The Disaster Artist” would have been pretty close to the top. A biographical drama focusing on one of the most enigmatic film creators of all time and one of the worst movies ever, this biopic was a dream project for not only director, producer, and star James Franco, but also for legions of fans of the horrific so-good-it’s-bad film “The Room”. It had a lot to live up to with Oscar and media buzz surrounding it all year long and expectations higher than many movies in 2017. How well does it meet those expectations? Well I’ll just say the irony is strong with this film, which takes a story of comical mediocrity and turns it into a masterpiece. This is my review of “The Disaster Artist”.
“This Disaster Artist” follows the career of the enigmatic and eccentric Tommy Wiseau and his best friend Greg Sestero as the two set out to create “The Room”, a movie that has gone down in history as “the ‘Citizen Kane’ of bad movies”. Just like Wiseau did with “The Room”, James Franco directs, produces, and stars in this project as Wiseau while Franco’s brother Dave Franco co-stars as Greg Sestero who wrote the book that the film is based on chronicling the creation of the legendary picture. The story delves into what occurred behind the scenes of “The Room’s” creation including the friendship Wiseau and Sestero shared and their mutual struggle with their artistic endeavors with many scenes from the actual movie recreated to suit the purpose of the biopic. The movies also stars the likes of Seth Rogan, Josh Hutcherson, Ari Graynor and others as actors and behind-the-scenes personnel involved in the creation of “The Room”.
For those unfamiliar with “The Room” and Tommy Wiseau, the film is a legendary work of poor filmmaking that some consider a waste of time while others consider it an example of what determination can accomplish seeing as Wiseau not only wrote, directed, starred in, and produced the film, he also self-funded it. “The Disaster Artist” manages to tackle almost every perspective on the legendary project, focusing on Wiseau’s mysterious obsession with privacy and his eccentricities while also providing eye opening commentary on what makes “The Room” so great and so horrible at the same time. It’s an intriguing drama and one that grabs your attention from the start as you become engrossed in the story of two men following a dream despite the struggles that came with it.
At the center of it all is a defining performance by James Franco flanked by his brother Dave in the pairs first time ever starring in the same film side by side. Both Franco brothers hold their own, completely losing themselves in the story and the men they are portraying. James Franco specifically turns in not only an incredibly well directed movie with a fully realized story and narrative, but also a amazingly committed and detailed take on the mysterious Wiseau capturing not only the man’s look, but his accent, mannerisms, and subtleties as well. It’s a performance by a man who understands the struggle of show business who was handpicked by Wiseau himself to bring this story to life. This is a true Oscar worthy turn and while that statement might be a cliché in this month of tent pole films and Oscar bait, James Franco’s performance is especially impressive because of how well he captured everything we know, love, and even despise about Wiseau. This story, this film, and this part could not have been in better hands.
James’ younger brother Dave is actually the real storyteller in this project, acting as the man through whose eyes we really experience the strangeness of Wiseau. I enjoyed this approach because it felt like we were truly experiencing Greg Sestero’s story while also seeing the man behind the madness that was Wiseau with the man’s mysterious origins and personality intact. We see what Sestero saw, for the most part, and this gives us kind of a behind-the-scenes perspective leaving everything that should be hidden hidden and avoiding filling in any blanks for the sake of unwarranted storytelling. Dave Franco has amazing chemistry with his brother and considering the back and forth dialogue about dreaming and commitment that Wiseau and Sestero share the interactions feel sincere and real, as if it were a true conversation not just between friends, but brothers as well.
The supporting cast isn’t half bad. As I said Seth Rogan and others help compliment the Franco brothers and all of them seem to genuinely be put off and disturbed by Franco’s strange turn as Wiseau, recreating the awkwardness said to be felt by those involved with the actual film. Nobody’s role is waisted or sacrificed to suit either of the Franco’s or their character arcs and each supporting role seems to take on life of its own with some even offering context into the thought process actors embraced while working on a movie they all knew would be horrific at the end of it all. They are both sources of comic relief and of context to help us, the viewers, understand why Wiseau and “The Room” were so fascinating even before the movie’s debut in 2003. Also be on the lookout for some amazing cameos, including a few that shocked even myself as the story progressed. It’s pretty neat to see who offered, and even demanded to be involved in this film, most of them out of respect for the legacy of “The Room”.
That brings me to the heart of this film. At its core “The Disaster Artist” is a movie about dreaming big and never giving up told through the eyes of two starkly different men following a similar path. It focuses on the struggles of acting and the reality of trying to make a break in Hollywood with about half the film serving as the build up to the creation of “The Room”. Once the filmmaking process begins “The Disaster Artist” delves further down the rabbit hole into the creative process and how difficult, complicated, and even controversial it can be to be the man in charge and bring one’s vision to life.
Throughout the film we also get references to actors and directors of the past and present with each of these moments presenting simple looks into the kind of pressure and personal humility and confidence that it takes to follow a dream. In many ways this movie presents “The Room” as a good thing, something offered to the world to show that sometimes it doesn’t take perfection to create something beautiful, or in this case beautifully tragic. Sometimes all it takes is an idea, no matter what the result. It also asks us to question whether or not we, as viewers, would turn our backs on a friend or treat someone with disrespect if it meant getting the result we are looking for or what we would do if we cracked under the pressure. While it’s easy to see Wiseau or Sestero as pathetic and unlikable, this movie actually makes them both very likable and easy to appreciate without glorifying them or relieving them of their sins in their attempt to climb to the top.
I need to come back to James Franco for a moment. This man did what Tommy Wiseau couldn’t do. He saw something beautiful in his mind and decided to turn it into a story of tragedy and drama balanced with heart and understanding and the result was a biographical masterpiece like few such films could ever hope to be. Franco’s vision is fully realized, both as a filmmaker and a performer, giving us, the viewers, arguably Franco’s greatest work in any capacity and legitimizing his ability to lead a film in almost every way. Franco takes a story and a man filled with question marks and chaos and turns both the man and the myth into a well paced, stylish, and actually pretty tragic presentation of a story that truly deserved to be told.
“The Disaster Artist” is an amazing accomplishment in film. How is it that James Franco managed to take the idea of one of the worst movies of all time and one of the most controversially secretive filmmakers ever and combine both to create a near flawless work of art? When Tommy Wiseau set out to create “The Room” he did so with a vision and a hope of glory. In “The Disaster Artist” his legacy is finally cemented, as are the Franco brother’s, as a story worth telling is told with care, control, and an appreciation for not only the subject, but the project he made famous and the fans who to this day continue to praise a movie so horribly bad it’s incredibly good. After personally waiting all year for this film “The Disaster Artist” delivered in every way and I truly hope it goes on to receive the continued praise and appreciation it deserves as award season rolls around.