It is difficult to make a movie more terrible than The Room. And it is even more difficult to make a movie about the making of The Room without it being equally as ridiculous, cringe-worthy, and uncomfortable to sit through as the original. But cult classic fans, rejoice! James Franco rose to the challenge.
In 1998, Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero moved to Los Angeles to pursue careers as Hollywood actors. After years of rejection and failure to land the roles they auditioned for, they decided to create their own. What followed then was the greatest worst movie ever made. And what follows now is a movie about a movie that could easily prove to be one of the best of its kind.
Based on the memoir written by Greg Sestero of the same name, The Disaster Artist is a fictionalized retelling of the conception, writing, and filming of The Room and the friendship between the two men responsible for it. Directed by James Franco, The Disaster Artist is a hilarious and accessible exploration of the infamous Hollywood flop and the untraditional and baffling methods of its creation.
James Franco stars as Wiseau, The Room’s writer, director, producer, and lead actor, and gives an arguably career-best performance as the eccentric and delusional visionary behind the film. He plays a tragically misunderstood character, inexplicably drawn to a career in which he has neither the skill nor the self-awareness to succeed. Dave Franco plays Sestero, an aspiring actor that begins an unlikely friendship with Wiseau in a San Francisco acting calls. The Franco brothers are accompanied by a stellar supporting cast of Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Alison Brie, and Jacki Weaver who reprise the roles of The Room’s cast and crew members. The cast list is endless, including cameos from Hannibal Burress, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, and Megan Mullally, and the star power is unrivaled by any recent production.
The film is well written and hilariously acted, although it’s difficult to determine how much credit can actually be given to the writers of The Disaster Artist for that. Throughout the filming of The Room, Wiseau paid a second camera crew to record behind-the-scenes footage in anticipation of creating a documentary following the film’s imminent success, and The Disaster Artist draws heavily on its source material. The humor is at times farfetched and the oddity of the entire production hard to believe, but the cast is simply acting out things that actually happened, ridiculous and unbelievable as they may be. The film plays on the strengths of its original, reviving The Room’s most classic and memorable lines (“Oh, hi Mark” and “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!”) while simultaneously giving viewers an unprecedented look into the conflict and untraditional brilliance of its creation.
The Disaster Artist is the first cinematic collaboration the Franco brothers have done together and their chemistry is palpable and genuine, adding a deeper meaning to the on-screen relationship between Wiseau and Sestero. But where Dave Franco is great, James Franco is phenomenal. He plays the role of Wiseau flawlessly, mimicking the accent, the mannerisms, and the personality of Wiseau so closely that it’s easy to forget that it’s Franco on screen and not Wiseau himself. Franco is careful to toe the line of authenticity and disrespect in his portrayal of Wiseau. The film easily could have marketed the ridiculous persona of Wiseau and stopped there. His unidentifiable accent, villainous long hair, and seemingly oblivious indifference to other’s perceptions of him could have supplied enough humor and a complete, but ultimately meaningless plot for a lesser film. The Disaster Artist does more than that, as Franco captures the eccentricity of Wiseau while remaining true to what was ultimately a misguided pursuit of fame and fortune of Hollywood. Wiseau’s passion and belief in his project comes through without derision or ridicule, adding a touch of humanity to an otherwise bizarre tribute.
The Disaster Artist was originally titled The Masterpiece, and rightfully so. Brilliantly written, directed, and acted, the film is everything that its director thought The Room could be. Tommy Wiseau was fond of saying “always give the people what they want.” And The Disaster Artist delivers.