There are great, good, bad and awful movies; and then there is The Room (2003). Rightfully considered one of the worst films ever made or “The Citizen Kane of bad movies”, it truly represents a case of seeing is believing. Yet despite its numerous flaws, its totally inept nature has catapulted it to cult status.
Into this cult following fits James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, a dramatization of the production of this ultimate bad movie that fascinatingly unlike its source material is actually quite good. This is a very funny movie in fact, but not in the way that The Room is unintentionally funny. It earns its laughs with great performances and an actually cohesive narrative (again unlike The Room) that is both quite humorous and surprisingly occasionally poignant.
Based on the 2013 memoir of the same name by actor Greg Sestero, the film chronicles his relationship with Tommy Wiseau (the ‘creative genius’ behind The Room) and his experiences in filming the movie. The Disaster Artist like the book is an intriguing behind the scenes look at one of the most bizarre people you’ll ever hear of and the totally crazy production of his ‘masterpiece’.
Directed and starring James Franco as Tommy Wiseau ( who directed, wrote and starred in The Room), this movie does a brilliant job of recreating the completely absurd circumstances of Sestero’s story. It is really an example of a story so strange that it couldn’t possibly be true, yet all of it is. While certain events and their timelines may be inaccurate, the central themes of this weird friendship and working partnership are moments of great comedy.
James Franco unquestionably shines in the lead role, not solely adopting Wiseau’s strange accent and appearance but seemingly going skin deep and really embodying this very, very strange man. At one point in the film Tommy indicates his desire to have his own planet; indeed if there was ever evidence of extraterrestrial life then Tommy Wiseau is probably the closest proof of an alien lifeform.
Franco totally captures the essence of this ‘auteur’ and is both hysterical and sympathetic. This is not a parody or mockery of Wiseau (after all there’s no better parody than the man himself) but instead a well-crafted portrait of a wildly eccentric and ignorantly ambitious person. Though the Academy Awards may be a stretch, James Franco should at the very least earn a Golden Globe nomination. Those seeing the performance without knowledge of the real Tommy Wiseau may believe Franco has just created a new brilliant comedy creation until they realize that he has just masterfully tapped into the mind of an unintentional comedy creation.
The supporting cast is also commendable and funny in dealing with this cyclone of a personality. Dave Franco stars as Greg Sestero while Seth Rogen plays the script supervisor for The Room, and it’s clear they are having a great deal of fun with these roles. From the crew to the actors and everyone in between, this totally surreal experience leaves everyone at a loss for words.
The film is funny because it’s truthful; it doesn’t portray anything that didn’t actually happen on set and that’s why it’s so laughable. People jeer in glee because of just how totally poorly made The Room is, and The Disaster Artist’s recreation of that maintains that spirit of zaniness. But here’s where the brilliance lies, while it recreates a poorly made film and its production this film does it so spot on that it itself becomes excellent. From a narrative story of chaos, Franco creates a coherent and truly funny film and a nice little tribute to this masterpiece of awfulness.
This story is so absurd in many ways that some audiences may not like it, but still you have to admire the tenacity or rather blind ambition of Wiseau. You don’t need to have seen The Room to enjoy this film (though those who have may have a slightly greater appreciation), and its humor and strangeness will certainly leave a memorable impression.
Even beyond the comedy, however, there are moments of surprising poignancy; Wiseau is also shown to be a fragile person that despite his determination and weirdness still looks for acceptance like any other normal person. His psyche may be difficult to understand but some of his emotions are definitely clear. In the end, we see that he’s as complex as any one of us, he’s just way, way, way more bizarre.
As a docudrama, The Disaster Artist works very well through its use of comedy, poignancy and terrific performances, (elements all lacking in The Room) and delivers a surprisingly fun time at the movies. This movie fascinatingly creates art from a total mess of source material and though The Room remains a truly awful and strange movie (albeit an unintentionally funny one) the real story behind it is one far stranger.
In creating something good from something very bad, The Disaster Artist not only creates laughter and a great acting showcase for James Franco but perhaps even vindicates that alien of a man Tommy Wiseau.
From the ashes of the worst movie ever made comes a docudrama full of laughs or in the words of Tommy Wiseau: a "real Hollywood movie"