The Disaster Artist
Directed by James Franco
Screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, based on The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissel
Starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogan, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver
There is a curiosity in filmmaking that I have had since I was a kid. It was never so much “why is this scene shot this way” or “what was the character’s motivation” or even, “does the story make sense.” I was just fascinated with movies in general. For me, “did I have a good time” crossed my mind every time. To an extent, that’s still the first thought that crosses my mind, even as a critic. But, that’s not where I stop.
Why is any of this important?
Well, James Franco’s brilliant The Disaster Artist is a 105-minute behind-the-scenes look at one of the most unconventional filmmaking processes ever put to film, Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic, The Room, which released in 2003 to small audiences, who, eventually got their friends to see it. Word of mouth, along with some festival plays propelled it into cult status and, just like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, it now enjoys a mass audience appeal. But, what about James Franco’s film makes it so brilliant?
Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) wanted nothing more than to be an actor and in 1998, he meets Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Wiseau wants nothing more than to make a dramatic film, taking his cues from A Streetcar Named Desire. When their ambitions fail to pan out in San Francisco, Wiseau convinces Sestero to move to L.A. Sestero gets work almost immediately, but no one will look at Tommy, let alone read him. So, they decide to make their own movie. Using his own money, Wiseau buys his own equipment and hires “professional crew to make movie.”
James Franco is a marvel both in front of and behind the camera, his accent is almost a parody of Borat while Dave Franco is exceptional as Sestero. The script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber allows the two real-life brothers enough room to play their respective characters while being able to share an ease with each other that I imagine Wiseau and Sestero shared. They had a lot of fun and it shows on screen.
The supporting cast is as much a hoot as the lead cast. Seth Rogan plays Sandy Schklar, The Room’s script supervisor with his trademark deadpan humor. His frustration with the process can be felt. Allison Brie plays Amber, Sestero’s girlfriend. There’s a scene in a restaurant when Sestero and Amber tell Tommy that they want to move in together, and away from Wiseau’s 1-bedroom apartment. Both Franco brothers played the situation so effectively that you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it all. Ari Graynor plays Juliette Danielle, the actress who played ‘Lisa’ in The Room while Josh Hutcherson plays Philip Haldiman, who played ‘Denny’ and Jacki Weaver plays Carolyn Minnott, who played ‘Claudette’. They were all spitting images of the real life people who starred in this farce and they all did it so well. The number of cameos for the smaller roles is too numerous to mention, but your jaw will drop when you’re able to find them all.
The film never steps into ‘documentary’ territory. The Franco’s stick very close to the script and the novel The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. I have not read the book, but from what I understand, the screenplay and the onscreen action captures the novel with near perfect accuracy. The result is hilarity the world has not seen, well since 2003 when The Room broke out wide. Tommy thought he was making a serious film. Greg got him to see that he had made a comedy, or the greatest bad film in cinema history, and today, The Disaster Artist has captured the filmmaking process like none other.
If Mr. Franco, James that is, reads this, The Criterion Collection would do well to pick this up as a special edition. The few bloopers we got during the end credits would easily go towards the greatest additions to their collection.
See The Room, then go see The Disaster Artist. Then read ‘Our Favorite Bad Movies’ celebrating the Phoenix Film Festival critic’s favorite bad movies. “I did not, I did NOT hit her. Oh, hai Mark!”
3.8 out of 4