The Disaster Artist (2017)

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

Based upon the best-selling memoir of the same name, this film follows an eccentric, misguided filmmaker who teams with his actor friend to make what ended up being known as The Room.

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Native San Franciscan Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is an aspiring actor who desires to make a career in Hollywood, but lacks the confidence, money or  parental support to do so. One day in acting class, he is enthralled by a mysterious misfit named Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) who is an appallingly bad actor but approaches it with admirable gusto.

The two strike up an offbeat, surprisingly close friendship, but Sestero consistently has questions about Wiseau’s background. The independently-wealthy, thick-accented Wiseau declines to reveal his sources of income, his nationality, and even his age. Regardless, they both share a serious passion for film and acting and constantly encourage each other to pursue their dreams. When Wiseau reveals that he has an apartment in Los Angeles, Sestero jumps at the chance to move to LA and potentially get an agent.

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After moving with Wiseau into his LA apartment, Sestero begins pounding the pavement looking for work. He lands with a prominent agency and also starts a relationship with cute bartender Amber (Alison Brie), but still doesn’t get the major break that he wanted. Meanwhile, Wiseau also auditions for numerous gigs, to no avail, and becomes discouraged and jealous. Eventually, he decides to write his own movie and finance it independently. Titled The Room, Wiseau decides to direct, produce, and star in the film — despite the fact that he has no experience doing any of the above tasks.

Wiseau’s story is intended to be a love-triangle drama about amiable banker Johnny (played by Wiseau) whose fiancée Lisa cheats on him with his best friend, Mark. Encouraging of his friend’s efforts but wary of the script’s many weaknesses, Sestero is chosen to play Mark in The Room. Against protocol, Wiseau decides to buy all of the film equipment (rather than renting) and even chooses to shoot in both HD video and 35MM film simultaneously. They are backed by a seemingly endless supply of money, the source of which Wiseau refuses to reveal.

Filming ends up being a disaster, with Wiseau routinely forgetting his lines and clashing with numerous crew members, most notably cinematographer Raphael Smadja (Paul Scheer) and script supervisor Sandy Schklair (Seth Rogen). Wiseau is adamant about doing his film his way, and the budget balloons accordingly due to his mismanagement. Sestero eventually becomes exasperated, and wants to forsake the entire project, arguing with Wiseau repeatedly and leaving the project behind completely at the end of filming.

Eight months later, Sestero hasn’t talked to Wiseau at all until he receives an invitation in the mail for The Room‘s premiere. Initially reluctant, he reconsiders after Wiseau tracks him down and insists that he come.

The premiere on July 27, 2003 is a disaster, with the audience dumbfounded by the film’s awkward dialogue, terrible performances and gigantic, unresolved plot holes. Audience members begin to embrace The Room as a comedy, and their laughter makes Wiseau uncomfortable, causing him to leave in a huff. Sestero tracks him down and convinces him to come back into the theatre, saying that even though this response wasn’t what Wiseau wanted, people are still entertained by The Room and are having a blast. The two men return to the theatre and Wiseau gets a standing ovation.

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Imagine a film so bad that it becomes the proverbial car wreck you can’t look away from. Imagine a film that is so intensely bad that it becomes funny. And imagine rewatching this film over and over because it’s just that priceless.

That, my friends, is The Room, the $6 million disaster-piece that was christened “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” when it was released in 2003. Bombing at the LA box office in a limited release, The Room was eventually embraced as a midnight movie and cult classic, becoming a worldwide sensation. This has what has led to both Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero becoming the unlikeliest of household names.

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As for The Disaster Artist itself, this movie-about-a-movie is truly wonderful. In their first film collaboration, Dave Franco and James Franco are exceptional as Sestero and Wiseau, respectively, performing their roles with conviction and earnestness. My only major issues with the film are the music (didn’t find it memorable), and the overall lack of faithfulness to the novel. While the film largely captures the spirit of the Sestero book, there are still a number of things that are glossed over in the finished movie.

Smartly written and downright hilarious, The Disaster Artist succeeds as both an homage to the “greatest bad movie ever made” and as a poignant nod to the quirky people who choose to never give up on their dreams.

Grade: A-

  • Directed by James Franco
  • Produced by James Franco, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, Vince Jolivette, and James Weaver
  • Screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
  • Based on the book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell
  • Director of Photography — Brandon Trost
  • Music by Dave Porter
  • Editor — Stacey Schroeder
  • Starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, Paul Scheer, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, Hannibal Buress, Zac Efron, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Megan Mullally, Jason Mantzoukas
  • Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.

 

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