By Jack Dignan
Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
Oh, hi readers. If you haven’t seen Tommy Wiseau’s THE ROOM, you’re only doing yourself a disservice. Released in 2003 for a rumoured budget of over $6 million (somehow), the film flopped. Big time. People hailing JUSTICE LEAGUE as a financial disaster clearly haven’t looked at THE ROOM’s numbers. But not just that, the film has been cited as the worst movie ever made. And it’s true. It is. But it’s also a life changing cinematic experience that needs to be seen to be believed. Over the years, Wiseau’s ambitious masterpiece has developed a cult following through monthly showings all over the world, where you can laugh, cry, shout and throw spoons at the movie all you’d like. It’s a bad film. But how does a film become this bad? Well, that’s where THE DISASTER ARTIST comes into play.
If you’ve ever dared to dream, you’ll know that following through with the dream is hard. Harder than people make it out to be. You persevere and try and try and try, facing off against rejection after rejection until you find that one success story your life really needed. Dreaming is easy. Making those dreams a reality is hard. But it’s what aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) dared to do. It’s the late 90s. Greg is 19 and taking acting classes, but lacking in much needed confidence. That’s when he meets a mysterious fellow actor named Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), who shares Greg’s aspirations of moving to Los Angeles and starting a career in acting. So, they just do it. They move.
Life is looking up, but in Los Angeles, dreams are shattered more often than they’re fulfilled. After what seems to be a never-ending string of rejections, Greg and Tommy are fed up with this world. It’s tearing them apart, Lisa! They wonder what life would be like if they could just make their own movie… and then it hits them. They can. They’re not a chicken. Cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep. So, they write the script, gather together a cast and crew, put the funds in to pay for sets and equipment, and before long, Greg and Tommy are living out their dreams of being real Hollywood filmmakers. Their movie? THE ROOM.
THE DISASTER ARTIST is the story of the Hollywood dream gone wrong, to the point where the dreams they’ve been after their whole life end up arriving in ways nobody could’ve ever imagined. The film opens with a group of a-list celebrities discussing their admiration for the film, and it’s incredible to see just how many people have been affected by this movie. It’s huge. This film is bigger than anyone could’ve ever imagined, well deserving of its cult status, and the making-of story is a film that’ll reach more than just avid fans of the original movie. It’s a human story of doing what you love and not letting anybody stop you.
This film could’ve gone in any number of directions. You could focus solely on the making of the movie and the many mishaps that happened along the way, or you could make it a caricature of these real-life people who unintentionally made the single worst movie ever. Instead, director James Franco and screenwriters Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter find real balance between humanity and comedy. They humanize Tommy and Greg into aspiring actors with crushed dreams, evoking strong emotion and sympathy towards their rocky rise to fame, all while embracing the inherent humour found within their life story.
Weber and Neustadter are a writing duo I’ve followed for quite some time, an avid fan since (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. Their body of work consistently takes premises that are often quite simple, such as a look back at a broken romance with (500) DAYS or two cancer patients falling in love with THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, and they create a unique, original spin on the concept that’s grounded in reality and fuelled with emotion. With THE DISASTER ARTIST, you’ll be laughing as often as you are crying. All laughs often come with subsequent sadness. You really feel for these characters. They’re putting their careers on the line; only to have it all fall apart before their very eyes.
The story of Greg and Tommy is wild. It’s just as much about them as people as it is of the film they’re trying to create. If you aren’t already in love with Tommy’s weird mannerisms and mysterious way of life, you certainly will be by the time the credit’s role, and James Franco has a lot to do with that. His performance is uncanny. It’s easy to call an actor ‘unrecognisable’ in a role, but he truly is here. There are shots that look like the real Tommy, indistinguishable from Franco’s actual looks. Every laugh, word and movement feels incredibly accurate. It’s a true turning point for Franco, and a performance we’re bound to look at come awards season.
You can tell that this movie feels very personal to Franco. Not only is he directing, producing and starring, but also the thematics of the film ring true for his own career. He’s been involved with a large number of misunderstood or critically unpopular movies, where audiences have reacted harshly to something he’s put hard work into. You should just leave your stupid comments in your pocket. The parallels and internal connections between himself and Tommy allow his performance to take on a whole other level. If BIRDMAN was Michael Keaton’s modern self-reflecting masterpiece, THE DISASTER ARTIST is Franco’s. It’s one thing to act well. It’s another thing entirely to act so well that you’re actually bad.
While Franco steals the show, and rightfully so (his fantastic direction can’t go without notable mention), the rest of the cast shouldn’t be discredited. Dave Franco, who’s arguably more of a lead character than Tommy is, gives a nuanced and grounded performance. He serves as our gateway into this wild adventure, seeing the world through his eyes as opposed to the eccentric eyes of Tommy, who’s more complex and perplexing given the fact that his life is a mystery. With Greg, we know him. He’s real. And Dave Franco is brilliant, matched by an equally fantastic supporting cast that includes the likes of Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson and a list of cameos too big to write in this review.
To put it plainly, THE DISASTER ARTIST is a masterpiece. Oscars, here we come. It’s not some game-changing, technical piece of brilliance in similar vein to BLADE RUNNER 2049, and I don’t think I’m going to watch it as often as I will end up watching that, but in terms of pure enjoyment and personal affection, this movie wins. I love these types of movies. As an aspiring screenwriter, they speak to me. They are me. And I love them. I need to see this at least ten more times in theaters. Maybe more. We’ll see. But anyways, how’s your sex life?
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