Film review by Claire Durrant of The Disaster Artist, the comic biography directed by and starring James Franco as Tommy Wiseau, the cinematic ‘genius’ behind notoriously bad movie The Room.
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Greg Sestero befriends Tommy Wiseau in an acting class and is impressed by his confidence. The two then decide to move to LA in order to make a name for themselves in the film industry. After a series of failed auditions, with malevolent looking Wiseau becoming increasingly more jealous of Sestero’s baby face, Wiseau decides to write a film depicting him as a hero in a Tennessee Williams like drama. Thus The Room is born!
Review, by Claire Durrant
The Room (2003) in its sheer absurdity has brought me many moments of joy. From first watching it alone on YouTube, to annual trips to London with my boyfriend to view it at The Prince Charles Cinema, throwing heckles and plastic spoons towards the big screen. If you know anything about me, then you know that I am unapologetically intrigued by the enigma that is Tommy Wiseau.
Reading the book The Disaster Artist, penned partly by Greg Sestero (who plays Mark and arguably the person who knows Wiseau the best) has further underlined just how bizarre the Dracula looking phenomenon is.
Sestero states that although there have been many questions about the mysterious Wiseau, the big ones are:
- How old is he? He says he is the same age as Greg, though looks much older
- Where did the money to finance The Room come from? Allegedly Wiseau mentioned that he got the money from selling jeans…but c’mon! It cost $6m!
- Where is he from? When asked Tommy says he’s from New Orleans, yet his accent suggests he is from a different planet.
There are no definite answers, and the film adaptation of The Disaster Artist offers no further information about Wiseau’s back story.
When we are first introduced to Tommy in the film, it is at the same time when Greg Sestero first laid eyes on his future friend/boss. Sestero is in the middle of the flattest interpretation of Waiting for Godot, when Wiseau storms down screaming and moaning “Stella!” Of course, way out of context but it is a truly great way of setting up who and what Tommy Wiseau is.
It would be so easy to spend the entire film mocking Tommy Wiseau, and while there are many moments when they do so, I am glad that the writers and producer/director/star James Franco spends time focusing on Wiseau as a human and not just a Hollywood joke. For Tommy is indeed passionate and determined to become an actor as great as James Dean. It is admirable.
However, it could be argued that they make him appear too sympathetic. Sestero mentioned in his book how cruel and unprofessional Wiseau could be towards his staff. I think the film only illustrates a small taste of what it was like to work for him.
What makes this film so great are the performances. Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Zac Efron etc. are amazing throughout, and the cameos are all amusing to see (the end credit scene being the best.)
It is no secret however, that this film is James Franco’s magnum opus. He is quite frankly perfect in his portrayal of Tommy. The voice, the mannerisms, the stance – it’s all spot on!
Other critics are saying that those who have yet to see The Room can still enjoy The Disaster Artist. I’m sure they can, but it is not until you’ve seen The Room that you can truly appreciate the love and effort James Franco has put in to his project.
The ending of the film shows side by side shots of the original The Room, and James Franco’s version that heavily and hilariously shows this. James Franco deserves all the high marks he is receiving.
Just like Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1995), The Disaster Artist invokes people’s need to cheer for the dark horse, even when it’s ludicrous to do so. It is genuinely heart breaking watching Wiseau’s reaction to how his film is being received. That is why it’s necessary and uplifting for the happy ending – obviously more exaggerated than what actually happened.
I am genuinely happy that this film was made, not only because it is one of the best comedies I’ve seen recently, but it will also serve as a way to get more people to experience The Room. Now let us all campaign to get The Disaster Artist and Tommy Wiseau to the Oscars!
Cast and Credits
Director: James Franco. 104mins. Good Universe, New Line Cinema, Point Grey Pictures et al. (15)
Producers: James Franco, Evan Goldberg, Vince Jolivette, Seth Rogen, James Weaver.
Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. W.
Camera: Brandon Trost.
Music: Dave Porter.
Sets: Chris L. Spellman.
James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver, Paul Scheer, Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson.