Review: The Disaster Artist

More of a celebration of what the cult phenomenon now is rather than an honest telling of the disaster it had been.

Two words stood out to me while watching this: Guerrero Street.

The Disaster Artist is a biopic comedy based off of the novel by Greg Sestero, a young actor who in the late nineties met another wannabe actor, an eccentric weirdo named Tommy Wiseau, who’s bizarre and unorthodox mannerisms inspired Greg to team up with him and move to L.A. There they both make a movie called The Room, which in time would gain notoriety, infamy and cult status across the globe.

The Room, directed, produced, written by and starring Tommy Wiseau, is a terrible movie. Like many terrible movies its editing is abysmal, performances are unrelatable and weird, the screenplay is nonsensical and human emotion is a concept far beyond its understanding. This website gave The Room the lowest rating possible.
The only reason anyone cares about it, is because a handful of film students went to see it when it was released in one theatre. So amazed were they that they showed it to friends and now, Tommy Wiseau frequents regular sold-out showings, where the audience throw spoons at the screen and other rituals over the terrible movie.

But it is well known fact that The Room was genuinely Tommy Wiseau’s attempt at real, dramatic cinema. He released it for the Academy Awards and paid his own money to keep it in theatres for the required amount of time to be in the running. Any fame it has now was not Wiseau’s intention.
Greg Sestero wrote his book in 2013, ten years after The Room released. Most likely because the fandom had escalated so much that an inside perspective would be welcome. It is. The book is very intense at times; Sestero’s own account of the spiralling nightmare of becoming friends with someone of undisclosed age or country of origin… a story that while funny, did have some very unsettling moments between the two men.

The film on the other hand, flirts with this but remains consistently light-hearted. Wiseau’s “darkness”, as Sestero put it in his book, isn’t really brought to the forefront. We don’t see the entire crew threaten to quit (and many do), we don’t see Tommy risk his and Greg’s life on the highway, and while they do have confrontations, it isn’t as insidious or backhanded as it is in the book. “Guerrero Street”, isn’t mentioned, firing staff is made into a joke, etc etc.

But, while the film is far more comedy-driven and is perhaps the far easiest version to produce (how do you make someone so bizarre and unnaturally goofy and childish also seem dangerous, unhinged and sympathetic?) it is a product of what The Room means to its fans right now. It is also probably a product that Wiseau was happy with.
It is a lot of fun though. You can tell that everyone on set is enjoying themselves in recreating moments seen in front of the camera as well as revealing several bleak and bizarre moments behind the camera. In the centre of this is James Franco as Tommy Wiseau and he knocks it out of the park. Genius casting. Franco completely disappears into the impossibility that is Wiseau, the film stands tall on this performance alone.
Everyone else is great too though, fulfilling roles that are so small yet crucial to understanding what happened on set.
The film is also resoundingly nineties. In its set design (incredibly well recreated sets) and in its wardrobe and soundtrack.
It is very funny too. If you have never seen The Room, most if not all of it will be lost on you. Most of it stems from Franco’s Wiseau and his interactions with people and the surrounding environment. It is only especially funny when you know this is all genuine, that someone forced his friend to start loudly reciting Shakespeare in the middle of a restaurant.

The film feels at the mercy of what every biopic suffers when the subject is still alive, especially when the book tackled the man’s dubious nature far more thoroughly. The film could have used an extra ten, fifteen minutes to flesh out more of what went wrong and the difficulties between Sestero and Wiseau.

But as it stands it is a good laugh. Fans of The Room will enjoy it and those who have not read the book will appreciate the behind the scenes view of what Wiseau was like before and during production.

Seriously, James Franco is incredible. There no way, but it would be hilariously ironic if Franco was even nominated for an Oscar, for playing Tommy Wiseau, a man dedicated to getting into the Academy Awards.



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