THE STORY – Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero become friends after meeting each other in an acting class in San Francisco. Hoping to achieve Hollywood stardom, Sestero moves to Los Angeles and signs on to appear in his buddy’s project. Financed with his own money, Wiseau writes, directs and stars in “The Room,” a critically maligned movie that becomes a cult classic.
THE CAST – James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson & Jacki Weaver
THE TEAM – James Franco (Director), Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber(Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 105 Minutes
By Matt N.
“I don’t care. I do it.”
I saw “The Room” for the first time in college back in 2009 after being told about it by a friend. I was told it was a movie so bad that it could only be enjoyed while consuming alcohol. Many years and many viewings later, I have found that there was no need for alcohol or any other numbing drugs while watching Tommy Wiseau’s misunderstood comedic masterpiece. “The Room” is probably the worst film ever made. As a result, its hysterical all on its own with no enhancements required. It’s a film that has garnered a cult-like following over the years, continuously playing at midnight screenings across the country when those who made it thought it would never see the light of day. James Franco, an actor who is also commonly misunderstood, decided to (Like Tommy) star and direct a movie about the making of “The Room.” That film is called “The Disaster Artist” and it is easily the best comedy of 2017. And no, you don’t need to be a fan nor have seen “The Room” to share this opinion.
Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is an un-confident actor who during an acting workshop is awe struck by the fearless Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Wiseau, a tall, ghoulishly looking man with long flowing black hair and a strange accent that no one can seem to pin-point, quickly takes to the young actor and seemingly overnight, the two become good friends due to their shared desires of wanting to make it within Hollywood. The two move from San Francisco to Los Angeles with hopes and dreams of becoming big actors, but much like Greg, Wiseau has an ever harder time landing roles due to his lack of talent and strange persona. With an endless supply of money that nobody knows the origin of, Wiseau writes what will become known as “The Room,” a dramatic film about an American hero named Johnny, his best friend Mark and the woman named Lisa between them. Wiseau makes the film just as much for Greg as he does for himself and with virtually no experience, the two set out to make what will later go down to become the worst film ever made.
“The Disaster Artist” is not a disaster like “The Room” was. Franco’s film earns its laughs from its audience and surprisingly also finds real emotion in the story of a determined and strange man who we still till this day don’t know much about and who went on to make this movie supposedly for his best friend who may or may not have had an obsession with. One must first start with Franco, in what will probably go down as one of the greatest performances in the actor’s ever-evolving filmography. Many people this year are talking about how Gary Oldman IS Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.” Allow me to say that James Franco IS Tommy Wiseau. The performance goes far beyond mimicry and develops into something much deeper and more complex. Don’t believe me? When “The Disaster Artist” comes to what is one of the best scenes of the year (What will forever be known as “The Premiere” scene) in the climax of the film, Franco’s moving performance created a hush over my sold-out audience thus earning our sympathy. He not only plays a character that is mysterious, reviled and socially inept but one that is also earnest and sincere in his intentions, funny accent and all. And that is where the charm of the film lies. No matter what anyone says about the quality of “The Room,” no one can take the fact that Tommy wrote, directed, starred and produced that movie with his own money, away from him.
The film is told through the perspective of Tommy’s best friend Greg Sestero and James’ own brother Dave Franco gives us his best performance as well as the young idealistic actor, who is struggling to find jobs but due to his good looks and optimistic encouragement from Tommy, never gives up. It’s his relationship with Tommy that is the heart of the movie and the Francos never lose sight of that. Flawlessly re-created production design (The scene where clips from “The Room” play out against shot-for-shot remakes made by Franco and his crew are spot on), a cast that includes Alison Brie, Seth Rogen (His deadpan delivery of some of his lines are hysterical), Jacki Weaver, Josh Hutcherson and many cameos and many subtle references to that now infamous movie that spawned this whole crazy viewing experience, “The Disaster Artist” is non-stop joy from beginning to end. Much like “Brigsby Bear” earlier this year, it celebrates the power of creativity, even if the road is bumpy along the way and the outcome is not what you intended.
“The Room” itself is a meta-movie for the conversations and debates it created about objectivity vs. subjectivity within a film. If the movie makes people laugh and they ultimately enjoy it for that reason, is the film truly awful? Despite Wiseau saying afterward that he intended to make the film a comedy, the story of “The Room” and how it has endured this long today can ultimately be summed up by the one thing that no one can control in this world and that is luck. It’s luck that brought Greg and Tommy together. It’s luck that the film got made at all. It’s luck that the film found a following. It’s luck that Greg randomly bumps into Bryan Cranston (Yes, Heisenberg has a cameo in this movie) who offers him a part in “Malcolm In The Middle.” It is luck that Greg went on to write a book called “The Disaster Artist” about his involvement with Wiseau and the making of “The Room.” Everything in Hollywood is based on luck. Not talent. So how does one judge talent? Who has the right to say whether something is good or bad? What ultimately does matter is how the artist feels about their own work once it is done and put out there into the world. How the film is received is all a matter of luck and the way that a true artist accepts that is by being able to judge their own work and either find peace or restlessness with that judgment. James Franco’s film has thus brought about a moral quandary for me. It is because of this viewpoint that (For this one time only) I hereby do not give a grade to “The Disaster Artist.” Who am I, or who is anyone for that matter to judge what Franco, his cast, and crew worked so hard to put out into the world, all in hopes that we would enjoy it? I’m nobody. And I am certainly not Tommy Wiseau or James Franco. Those men are artists. I’m just a guy who is fortunate enough that gets to enjoy the work.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – James Franco’s transformative performance. This could have easily been a joke of movie but its so much more than that, as Franco and his brother find unexpected depth in the strange story of Tommy Wiseau and the making of the worst film ever made.
THE BAD – Who am I to say art is bad?
THE OSCARS – Best Adapted Screenplay (Nominated)
THE FINAL SCORE – N/A