The Disaster Artist Review
James Franco goes more meta than ever before as he takes on the movie everyone loves to hate
Who would have thought that taking James Franco’s weirdness and adding Tommy Wiseau’s weirdness would be a recipe for perfection?The Room (2003) has become the cult film to end cult films. It’s regularly screened for baying audiences, who scream obscenities, wave madly and hurl plastic spoons at the screen. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I implore you to watch The Room, and watch it again and again. It’s a total gem. Widely described as the worst film ever made, it was Tommy Wiseau’s (ultimate man of mystery) pièce de résistance. The plot… really doesn’t matter too much. The stilted dialogue, the fantastic set dressing, the awkward acting and the excruciating sex scenes made for a unique piece of cinema history that has, over the years, become beloved by millions.This is a film so awkward, so bizarre, so uncomfortable, that viewers the world over have pondered how on earth this could have been made. The Disaster Artist tries to answer this question, to a degree. James Franco directs and stars as Wiseau, a completely unfathomable man with big Hollywood-shaped dreams, who meets a young aspiring actor called Greg Sestero (Dave Franco). The excellent screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber is based on Sestero’s autobiography (written with Tom Bissell), which details how the young man latched on to Wiseau and became part of one of the most infamous films in modern cinema history.
The legend of The Room and plot of The Disaster Artist go like this: in 1998 Sestero met Wiseau in an acting class and the pair became bosom buddies. They moved to LA together to try and make it big in Hollywood, failed, and decided to make a film of their own. The film flopped spectacularly, but did eventually lead to Wiseau being a cult figure, a hero to many and a symbol of the absolute insanity that is Hollywood stardom. Franco’s film examines the catastrophic production of the film and the total weirdness of Wiseau, but somehow manages not to ridicule him too much.
James Franco himself is incredible as Wiseau – somehow managing to embody the un-embodiable and utterly nailing that bizarre accent. His likeness is uncanny, but it’s the way he gets Wiseau’s spirit that’s great. This must be one of, if not the best James Franco performances to date – he encapsulates Wiseau’s wonderful wizardry perfectly, and makes him not a figure to ridicule but what he always should have been – a total hero.
Dave Franco is likeable as Sestero, Ari Graynor is great as Juliette Daniel, and an excellent supporting cast of Franco’s pals – from Seth Rogen as an exasperated producer to Judd Apatow as an accosted executive. Other members of the flashy ensemble include Zac Efron, Sharon Stone, Megan Mullally, Bob Odenkirk, Melanie Griffith and Alison Brie, who plays Greg’s girlfriend Amber.
This must be one of, if not the best James Franco performances to date
Those of you up to date on your pop culture will know that Brie’s casting is interesting since she is married to Dave Franco in real life. This is probably the least meta thing in the film – there are lots of delightful and absurd nods, from self-aware cameos from the likes of Apatow, Bryan Cranston and Kristen Bell, to a complete gem of a post-credits scene. Not to mention how unsettling the homoerotic relationship between on-screen Sestero and Wiseau becomes when you remember the actors playing them are brothers.
It’s perhaps a little disappointing that the film doesn’t really get very close to revealing anymore about Wiseau. The real man, the enigma, is a genuine mystery – questions about his age, nationality and wealth aren’t answered (or possibly aren’t answerable). But Wiseau’s mystique is a massive, massive part of his charm – after all, without it he’d just be a spectacularly failed actor/writer/director lampooned by everyone.
There’s no getting away from it – this is a weird film, although not, of course, as weird as The Room. If you haven’t seen the original masterpiece the film probably won’t mean very much to you, but if you’ve been blessed with a viewing or two before you will undoubtedly be struck by Franco’s excellent homage. Scenes – including the infamous ‘hi Mark’ – are reproduced to great comedic effect. Franco’s Wiseau is every bit as egotistical, deluded and bizarre as the real life one, but is played with charm, skill and understanding; after all, who can understand being judged as egotistical, deluded and bizarre better than James Franco?
In short, this is a surprising gem. It’s a film about the worst film ever, and it’s great. It’s funny, it’s painfully self-aware, it’s charming, it’s an ode to a film that has brought a lot of people a lot of joy. In all, it’s Franco’s disasterpiece. To steal an excellent joke – I give this film Hi Marks. And seriously, stay for the end credits scene.
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