James Franco’s new film details the true life story of the friendship between Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, up to and including the troubled production of the cult movie The Room. James Franco plays Tommy opposite his brother Dave Franco in the role of Greg. The film is a comedic twist on the rags to riches story in which the two young hopefuls are tragically short on talent but persevere and ultimately find some measure of success by making “the worst movie ever made”.
The Disaster Artist is a fantastic movie. The plot is familiar but beautifully twisted. The magic of film production is fully lampooned through exploring Wiseau’s baffling decisions and vision. It’s a fascinating story that the film draws from and it has been adapted here into a really compelling and entertaining narrative.
The brothers Franco are both superb in their roles. Not only is James Franco doing an uncanny impression of Wiseau, really disappearing into the role, but he is delivering a marvellous performance full of pathos and humanity. Just as the film clearly has a deep affection for Wiseau’s quirks, it also refuses to back away from his faults, including some truly horrific stories from the set of his childish tantrums.
Similarly Dave Franco is marvellous as Greg Sestero, the main character of the film and a wonderfully earnest audience surrogate. His friendship with Wiseau is not inexplicable but actually strangely beautiful. Both men take the other seriously when no one else does and they definitely grow as a result of knowing each other.
I have a problematic relationship with The Room and it’s following. It’s certainly a very entertainingly bad film which I enjoy alongside the likes of Samurai Cop, the Miami Connection or Things. However, unlike those films, The Room has enjoyed an enormous cult following that is very much like Troll 2 or Plan 9 from Outer Space. There are special screenings, many memes and in many ways The Disaster Artist is the ultimate fan tribute.
This fandom represents a very close knit community who all have a huge fondness for the film and its faults. However, in spite of what Wiseau asserts, the film was not intended to be a comedy or a so-bad-it’s-good-film. It was meant to be a serious drama about a man falling out with the world and was definitely semi-autobiographical for Wiseau. The Disaster Artist implies as much, suggesting that Greg himself may have been the inspiration for the traitorous Lisa.
Consequently the “joke” of The Room has always felt like it is at Wiseau’s expense and although he now attends these screenings and seems to have embraced the film’s comedic nature, the whole enterprise has always seemed a little cruel to me. I can’t help but feel that as the audience jeers and pelts the screen with plastic spoons, part of Wiseau is dying inside.
James Franco seems fully aware of this dichotomy and explores it in the film. In fact it may just be the raison d’être of the film. The Disaster Artist may demonstrate arrogance on Wiseau’s part, setting him up for his fall, but it never fails to remind you that this was a deeply personal production for him and Sestero. They both invested a lot of themselves in the film and there is a genuine tragedy that it failed to be what they hoped it would.
The scene in which Wiseau must come to terms with the legacy that awaits him is very emotional. It is also fairly ambiguous. Wiseau may bask in the attention he craved and has now received and does not appear to differentiate between admiration and ridicule, just as in real life, but we now have a greater understanding of him as a character and what this may actually mean to him.
The Disaster Artist is a fascinating movie about making movies, a hilarious comedy about artists taking themselves too seriously and most importantly a beautiful tale of friendship. At the heart of it appears to be a genuinely affectionate attempt to get inside the head of one of the most enigmatic artists to ever make his mark on the public consciousness. The Disaster Artist might even encourage you to check out The Room. Just remember the strange man whose heart is at the centre of it all. The Disaster Artist does.
4.5 / 5