It takes a quick YouTube search and five minutes to get that The Room is a terrible movie. But just a glimpse stirs up that curiosity factor of how could such a clearly awful film ever get made. That’s the question James Franco answers in spectacular fashion with his latest charming and hilarious film, The Disaster Artist.
Franco stars and directs this look at Tommy Wiseau, a mysterious would be Hollywood legend. Tommy never had anyone willing to embrace his dream until he encounters Greg Sestero (played by Franco’s brother Dave) in their acting class. Striking a fast friendship and a mutual desire to create their own Hollywood success story, the two move to L.A.
With his boy next door looks and easygoing demeanor, Greg’s future if it doesn’t seem bright at least has potential. He even quickly gets into a stable relationship with the supportive Amber (Alison Brie). Tommy might be the only person not clued in that he’s fully and completely incapable as an actor. Undeterred, Tommy decides to make his own movie and taps in to his massive bankroll to finance everything.
Tommy might have the cash, but he doesn’t know a thing about actually making a movie. He constantly badgers his director of photography (Paul Scheer) and script supervisor (Seth Rogen) while generally making life unbearable for his cast including Ari Graynor, June Diane Raphael, Josh Hutcherson and Zac Efron.
Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber spend a good portion of the film poking fun at Tommy. It’s hard not to mock his vanity and overall clueless mentality. And they pack a ton of hilarious moments throughout at Tommy’s expense. But they also find room to make Tommy sympathetic. He might be a tyrant on set and one of the worst actors of this or any generation, but he’s not a bad dude.
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James Franco fully commits to the role perfectly from the exaggerated physical gestures to nailing Wiseau’s voice, which sounds like he’s constantly hung over. In real life, Wiseau comes off like a movie character with his jet black, wet hair; dark sunglasses and array of belts. Franco could have easily strayed in making Tommy too much of a caricature. Despite Tommy’s numerous eccentricities, Franco never makes him feel cartoonish or phony. Franco conveys a guy who’s just wanted to be accepted and loved in vain for far too long.
The film’s end credits contain a great sequence with a shot for shot comparison that displays how accurately Franco nailed Wiseau’s mannerism and speech pattern. Franco earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (127 Hours), but this role shows his growth as a performer and should be rewarded with another Academy Award nomination. But with The Disaster Artist’s complete lack of pretension, smart pacing and overall fun experience, Franco could also be a dark horse in the Best Director category as well.
Dave Franco is also solid. His role isn’t nearly as flashy, but he plays the part of dutiful friend reaching his boiling point well. Rogen is also a lot of fun as his character continually finds new levels of exasperation. Outside of some fun snarky lines by Raphael, the female performers don’t get nearly as many memorable moments.
The Room has become a cult classic in part because Wiseau smartly embraced its reception not as a great movie, but a howlingly entertaining spectacle. The Disaster Artist sets itself up nicely as an equally funny companion piece. Of all the Oscar bait films, this was a terrific surprise. It kept me laughing and worked in a touching inspirational message of never giving up on your dreams. The Disaster Artist is a great film and one of the must-see films for award season.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/A24