6th December 2017
When Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true.
Tommy Wiseau’s 2002 romantic drama The Room became a cult classic for all the wrong reasons – atrocious acting, baffling scenarios, utterly inept continuity errors and unintentionally hilarious dialogue are just a few of the reasons why it gained its notoriety. Behind the cinematic mess was an equally chaotic production story though, and James Franco’s The Disaster Artist gives an insight into the creation of the infamously awful movie.
Franco himself plays Wiseau, an enigmatic filmmaker with a big personality and even bigger dreams. Along with his friend Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), the pair travel to Los Angeles to follow their dreams of stardom. Greg has the looks of a star, which results in him getting an agent quickly, but no work is coming his way. Wiseau, on the other hand, isn’t finding anything even remotely close to success – so decides to make his own destiny by writing what he expects to be a big Hollywood movie – the film which subsequently becomes the one we all know and love as The Room.
If you’ve never seen The Room, I highly recommend it for a masterclass in how not to make a movie. Although It’s become almost commonplace between University students and independent cinemas now to screen Wiseau’s disasterpiece as an annual tradition of mockery, and it’s clear that Wiseau has now become a self-aware parody of peculiarity, I assure you everything in The Room was made with the best of intentions and a serious attempt at authenticity. If you don’t think you can manage the whole 90 minutes, and it’s not mandatory to have seen it to appreciate The Disaster Artist either, some kind soul has collected the best bits in one neat YouTube video. In many ways, it’s a similar method that Franco has adopted for The Disaster Artist – all the ‘hits’ from The Room are on show, performed to imitated perfection by the Franco brothers and the rest of the cast, but that’s about the extent of it.
This isn’t particularly a negative; Wiseau has always been secretive about his past (up until very recently anyway) and The Disaster Artist stays true to this. Any attempt at delving into the man behind the madness is thwarted or quickly brushed aside by a throwaway scene of characters speculating on what they have heard to be the truth, but we never really get to know Tommy. This could have been a great opportunity to find some understanding of what drove Tommy to make certain narrative and creative decisions in The Room, but instead, Franco opts for a more straight-forward approach and uses it as an opportunity to exhibit his admittedly fantastic talents as an impressionist.
Taking it for what it is then, The Disaster Artist performs best when we see the tensions on the set; a real highlight being the incredibly awkward love scene between Wiseau and Lisa (Ari Graynor) as Tommy parades around completely naked while still barking orders. There are some genuinely funny moments peppered throughout, mostly deriving from Franco’s seemingly improvised responses while in conversation with Greg, but The Disaster Artist may disappoint those looking for a laugh a minute picture which they have come to expect from the usual Franco/Rogen (who has a supporting role as Script Supervisor Sandy, but essentially plays the role exactly how you’d expect) collaborations.
Alternatively, a surprisingly poignant and heartwarming picture is on offer here that never stoops to the mockery of Tommy or his project. It is a film that champions the idea of following your dreams, no matter what others may say. And while The Disaster Artist doesn’t unlock its potential of a further understanding of the misunderstood creative that is Tommy Wiseau, it is a thoroughly enjoyable peek through the window of The Room, where James Franco is throwing a great party and all his friends have been invited.
Uncanny portrayal of Tommy Wiseau by James Franco
Uplifting message of following your dreams
Interesting to see how a cult classic came to be
Only scratches the surface of a truly enigmatic character
Fun while it lasts, but not one to last too long in the memory - unlike the film it is based on