Directed by James Franco
Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
I think starting this review of The Disaster Artist with anything other than a disclaimer would be a disservice to both the film and its source material. Disclaimer: I have never seen The Room, the film whose production this film is based. I don’t think this is a handicap for my enjoyment of James Franco’s latest film, The Disaster Artist however. Could I have enjoyed the film more had I see The Room first? Perhaps. But regardless, without having seen it, I was still able to enjoy the film a great deal, and am here to tell people do not fear if you too have failed to see the supposed “worst film ever made”, there is plenty in James Franco’s direction and performance to enjoy all by themselves. The Disaster Artist, film about the worst film ever made, is in fact one of the best films of 2017. Imagine that.
Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is a young man in Northern California dreaming of a career in Hollywood and acting. When at an actor’s workshop, he meets the inimitable Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), whose acting style is passionate if not over-the-top. Tommy is a middle aged bachelor who reveals he has an apartment in Los Angeles, encouraging the two burgeoning actors to make the journey to the acting mecca in an attempt to make it big. Once there, however, the two struggle to find work, with rejections coming left and right. With Tommy’s never ending budget, the two decide to make and star in their own movie, written and directed by Tommy. The result is something nobody in Hollywood has seen, but rather than be embarrassed by the result, they embrace the film they have made, and the success it finds despite it being not quite what they had intended.
While I had never seen The Room, prior to seeing this film, I knew of it. I knew why it was famous. Perhaps having these small nuggets in the back of my mind helped, but I’d like to think James Franco’s film speaks for itself. In an odd way it becomes less a movie making fun of these men and their misdirected dreams of stardom, and more about what it means to live your dream, and to make art. The film’t title can be gleaned to discover just what Franco may be getting at. He views Tommy Wiseau not as a great failure, despite the “disastrous” result of his film, which was penned to be a great drama, but turned out to be a hilarious film which audiences enjoying laughing at, but rather Franco views Wiseau as an inspiration, a testament to chasing your dreams.
Whatever the film may have resulted in, Wiseau made a movie, starred in it with his friend (Greg), and released it. He accomplished something, regardless of the result. The phrase, “the journey is the destination” is thrown around a lot, and is actually one of my favorites, but here it rings very true. But what sets The Disaster Artist apart from other movies about the process is its heart. Franco humanizes these characters to the point that their struggles, their longings, despite the hilariousness of their process, are emotionally moving in some very odd and very real way. Wiseau is a troubled character with a mysterious past, one which we never learn about, but Franco’s performance of this enigmatic mad genius is both poignant and outrageously funny, a balancing act which is very hard to strike, yet Franco pulls it off quite well here.
I’m not sure I have laughed as much, or as hard, in the theater all year as I did with The Disaster Artist. What James Franco has put together here with this film is a fitting love letter to the man that brought us the laughing stock of a movie The Room. While audiences may willingly laugh at the film instead of with it, and may laugh at Wiseau instead of with him, this mysterious man has embraced his fame and his accomplishment (because that is what it is, an accomplishment). James Franco sees this, and has captured the love, passion, and humor of one of the most interesting subjects in modern film history. Why is The Room successful? That is hard to say, especially having never seen it. But I can say that making people laugh is no easy task, something both Wiseau and Franco have accomplished with their respective films.