The Disaster Artist, 2017.
Directed by James Franco.
Starring Dave Franco, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Josh Hutcherson, Sharon Stone, Ari Graynor, Dylan Minnette, Jacki Weaver, Megan Mullally, Eliza Coupe, Jason Mantzoukas, Hannibal Buress, Jason Mitchell, Kristen Bell, Bryan Cranston, Jerrod Carmichael, Sugar Lyn Beard, J.J. Abrams, John Early, Lizzy Caplan, Adam Scott, Angelyne, Paul Scheer, Melanie Griffith, Zach Braff, June Diane Raphael, Judd Apatow, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bob Odenkirk, Randall Park, Erin Cummings, Nathan Fielder, Tom Franco, Casey Wilson, Greg Sestero, and Tommy Wiseau.
A behind-the-scenes look at the making of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003).
Oh hai readers!
Is The Disaster Artist a funnier and more complete film having seen the incoherent train wreck that is Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 released disasterpiece The Room (including a general familiarity with its toxic production)? Absolutely, it would be misleading to say that my permanent smile didn’t continuously grow wider with each subsequent throwback to “the best worst movie ever made”. Long before James Franco (his performance here goes beyond transformative, more accurately labeled as a flooring reflection of the enigma boasting Tommy’s trademark incomplete sentence structure and indecipherable but iconically amusing accent) is shouting the infamous “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!” line, the tragicomedy following the auteur’s massively failing but inspiring aspirations (along with his close-knit friendship to Greg Sestero, co-star of The Room and author of The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made and fittingly played by James Franco’s real-life brother Dave Franco) will have won over literally anyone with a funnybone.
Still, the craftsmanship behind the camera is just as much responsible for its electric success than any one character or scene reenactment. It would have been easy to continue beating the dead horse or make a full-blown comedy that, while humorous, does not portray Tommy as a human being with notable flaws. He’s clearly an outcast, lonely, creepily resembles a vampire, and most importantly, has authoritative issues in desperate need of checking, yet all of these qualities (including his confrontational and unorthodox approach to collaboration) render him likable and easy to cheer on. Even better is that Franco is able to illuminate all of the above during outrageous moments on and off The Room‘s set. There are a few scenes spread out in The Disaster Artist briefly and seriously touching on Tommy’s wildly uncooperative behavior and his paranoid impressions of betrayal, but for the most part, it’s Franco pulling off a masterfully expressive turn surrounded by his personally created chaos.
I don’t think anyone on the planet can claim that they understand Tommy’s artistic vision or thought process as a person, but Franco, as an actor and director, has a tight grip on how he behaves and how to elicit that eccentricity (an early scene has Tommy and Greg disruptively reciting play lines in a restaurant to hilarious effect). Essentially, the script from Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber whip up a plethora of ridiculous things for Tommy to say and do, some of it just as bizarrely riotous as things he said in and out of The Room. Furthermore, it and Franco are aware of how to utilize The Room’s script (which, as awful as it is, is able to draw comparisons from Tommy Wiseau to Johnny) and manifest that expressionism into Tommy as a person in The Disaster Artist. The layers underneath all of the comedy, and more specifically, Tommy is another critical present ingredient.
The Disaster Artist unquestionably has the strongest supporting cast of any film all year, and what makes it so remarkable is the chemistry each performer has with James’ Tommy, and vice versa. The camaraderie, heated arguments, atrocious filmmaking (you don’t need any experience to know that Tommy has no idea what he’s doing), fan service, and overarching message of chasing dreams quickly magnetize into an unstoppable force of uproarious energy. Fuck the phrase “it has laughs every minute”, The Disaster Artist delivers gut-busting jokes every few seconds, and fuck the saying “you’ll laugh until it hurts”. The Disaster Artist will have audiences laughing until they die. Yes, it’s my spectral spirit writing this review.
Aside from comedy, there’s definitely the sensation that The Disaster Artist is a pitch-perfect metaphor for the unwavering egos of many filmmakers. Tommy insists that the picture will turn out fantastic and that the story is mimicking authentic emotions, but as many of us know, it’s just a bunch of crazed nonsense with 42 different subplots, half of them dropped. It’s not unthinkable that similar auteurs exist today considering how often stories of clashing visions pop up in mainstream news articles. Again, The Disaster Artist is not afraid to present some unlikable aspects of Tommy, especially in ways servicing as a cautionary tale regarding destructive creative control.
Of course, it’s also flat-out inspirational in its madness. Tommy is endearing; he’s strange but his drive brings out the courage in others to be themselves and the motivation necessary to achieve the impossible. Crucially, the film makes it believable to accept that Greg would want to associate with someone so mysterious and nutty. For as hilarious as The Disaster Artist is, its story of unlikely becoming a legend and friendship aids that triumph.
It’s evident that The Disaster Artist carries deep love for The Room, but it’s also surprisingly a love letter to cinema as a whole. There are direct references to all sorts of films, each one hitting its mark with laughter; a certain dialogue exchange centered on Home Alone is a hoot. Much affection is also distributed to the aforementioned charming friendship between Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, to which James Franco wisely knows when it’s explored too much or too little. The only small flaw within The Disaster Artist comes from Greg’s brewing romantic relationship with Amber (Alison Brie) not receiving enough attention to make it stand as anything more than a plot device to drive a wedge between the buddies. At the same time, no one wants to see that or cliché storytelling techniques, even if it happened in real life. It’s a truly minor nitpick that the couple isn’t fleshed out, which is a testament to how exceptional The Disaster Artist is.
Put it this way, before The Disaster Artist actually gets underway, there is a montage of interviews with various notable Hollywood celebrities pouring on the praise of The Room, with one individual pointing out that whatever wins the Academy Award for Best Picture is routinely forgotten about. Meanwhile, it’s highlighted to truthful effect that we’re still talking about The Room, a notorious dumpster fire, over 10 years after its release. Now, the feverish cult-like phenomenon will expand, but the magnificent part is the passion behind The Disaster Artist. The side-by-side comparisons during the ending credits will leave you speechless if you’re magically not already dead from laughing.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com