The Disaster Artist chronicles Sestero (Dave Franco) as he attempts to make it big as an actor. At an acting class one night he is introduced to Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and in spite of his bizarre mannerisms and clear lack of acting talent Greg is won over by Tommy’s passion and fearlessness on the stage. Striking up a friendship, the two move to Los Angeles in order to pursue their dreams further and when both of them get one rejection too many Greg comes up with the idea that they create their own movie. This inspires Tommy to create The Room, a passion project that he decides to star as the lead as, which ends up becoming a trainwreck of bad decisions from writing to production; Greg must work his way through the clearly dreadful script and Tommy’s dire acting and directing skills in his desire for fame.
The most notable aspect of The Disaster Artist is that it’s consistently hilarious; the film scarcely takes any breaks from acknowledging the sheer ridiculousness of The Room and the utterly bizarre nature of Tommy Wiseau’s mind with most of the humour utterly mining the most ridiculous moments of the film and its messy production to great effect – you’ll often be asking yourself whether or not these events were actually real because of how insane they get at times but all the way through you’ll be laughing at the decisions made in the script and production of the room. On the subject of scripts, the movie works well as an adaptation of the book as it picks out the craziest of the production stories and recreates them lovingly, though the film is far more streamlined as many elements are left out; the introduction of Steven, a character who replaced another character at the last second when the actor had to leave production early (if you wondering why they didn’t shoot all his scenes first the answer is Tommy) is left out, whilst Greg breaking up with his girlfriend Amber (Alison Brie) is glossed over in a line near the end and doesn’t have the same impact as the book, where it occurred mid-production and Tommy used it as a new part for the script. Furthermore the storytelling is far more linear than the book – whilst the book goes back and forth between the production of The Room and Greg and Tommy meeting (alternating between these story beats for each chapter) the film tells the story in chronological order, and almost as a consequence Tommy’s possible past isn’t told. This more linear storytelling works more for the film though and it still acts as a strong adaptation of the book – however, it would have been nice to have seen more of these crazy moments be adapted especially given that the movie is quite short, running not long past 100 minutes and feeling even shorter than that at times.
As is the norm with biopics the crucial element of the film is its cast and the whole film is just brilliant in this regard, especially from Franco as Tommy. He gets all of the mannerisms of Wiseau absolutely dead on – his voice, his movements, all his little inflections, they’re all done perfectly and he really disappears into the role at times. He’s crucial in exposing all the aspects of Tommy and making you feel everything for him – you laugh at him (when he’s doing his terrible acting and making ridiculous decisions on the production), you hate him (when he becomes a dictatorial primadonna who snaps at anybody who disagrees with his vision – see the toecurling moment when he humiliates Juliette Danielle (Ari Graynor), the actress who plays Lisa, during their sex scene for having a pimple on her body) and you feel sorry for him (when he almost has the self-aware moments that he is a failure in his acting, best exemplified when a producer played by Judd Apatow tells him he’s never going to make it in Hollywood). You really see all sides of this almost tragic man thanks to Franco and it helps create an affectionate spirit to the film. His brother Dave has a far less showy part as Greg but he still pulls it off well, capturing the desperation of wanting to be a star and seeing a friendship turn sour very well and still having a number of funny moments. The rest of the cast are all brilliant, especially with the actors playing the cast of The Room; in particular Josh Hutcherson as Phillip Haldiman, the actor playing the somewhat mentally challenged Denny, and Jacki Weaver as Carolyn Minnett, who plays Claudette, Lisa’s mother who has a strange case of breast cancer that never factors into the rest of the film, are dead on casting choices. This all comes together when the film recreates scenes from The Room and the cast nails all the terrible acting and all the best lines (“What a story, Mark!”, “You are tearing me apart, Lisa!”, “Everybody betray me, I’m fed up with this world!”, “Hai doggie!”) in a sequence that’s a blast to witness.
The Disaster Artist is a glorious tribute to the production of the best worst movies of all time, where you get the sense that as much as the filmmakers enjoy mocking the film they also deeply appreciate its contribution to the world of cinema. All the way through it’s a laugh riot as you just wonder how everything just went downhill for this film and just how Wiseau managed to approve so many terrible decisions. The cast are all dead on, with James Franco as Tommy being pitch perfect, and as an adaptation of the book it works rather faithfully, though it could have benefitted from a longer run time to squeeze in more moments of hilarity left out from the book. Though it will most benefit those who have seen The Room and/or read the book, The Disaster Artist is overall an incredibly funny and insightful journey into this amazingly bad film.
The Disaster Artist – directed by James Franco, screenplay by Scott Neustadted and Michael H. Weber, produced by Franco, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Vince Jolivette and James Weaver, starring Franco, Dave Franco, Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson and Jacki Weaver. A New Line Cinema/Good Universe/Point Grey Pictures production, an A24/Warner Bros. film
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