The Disaster Artist: The Ultimate Disaster Piece

 Ryan O'Donnell


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When people think of life’s greatest mysteries, quite a few things come to mind: the creation of Stonehenge, the fate of Amelia Earhart, the disappearance of the colonists at Roanoke, and of course, the entire production process of The Room. Dubbed “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” by many film critics, viewers spent almost the entirety of the bizarre film asking themselves rhetorical questions. Why are all of these subplots getting abandoned? How did this monstrosity of a movie cost $6 million to make? Most importantly, who is Tommy Wiseau, where did he get all the money, and what country is he from with that kind of accent? In the midst of his laughable pipe dream of winning an Academy Award – and shamelessly ripping off acting legend James Dean in doing so – Wiseau was quite innovative in a sense. He managed to carve out his own legacy by being a remarkably horrible actor, producer, writer, director, and human being. The Disaster Artist, a film based on Tommy Wiseau’s friend-turned-Hollywood whistleblower’s autobiographical book of the same name, serves as the perfect sentiment to Wiseau’s legacy.

Golden Globe winner James Franco (127 Hours, Pineapple Express) not only directs and produces the feature, but also stars as the man, the myth, the legend — Tommy Wiseau. Franco brings along some of his most frequent collaborators along for the ride, including his brother Dave (Nerve, Now You See Me), his brother’s wife and Screen Actors Guild Award winner Alison Brie (The Lego Movie, Netflix’s GLOW), as well as his BFF and fellow funnyman Seth Rogen (Superbad, Neighbors). Former teen idols Zac Efron (Hairspray, The Greatest Showman) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games, Journey to the Center of the Earth) also have minor supporting roles as struggling actors, desperate for a paycheck and for some notoriety, who accept offers to be in The Room.

The film opens as Greg Sestero, played by Dave Franco, is seen struggling to make an impact while performing monologues in his acting class. Tommy Wiseau then steps up to the stage and “performs” a hilariously garbled interpretation of Marlon Brando’s classic “Stella!” scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. Sestero approaches Wiseau and compliments him for his fearlessness and bravery; the two hit it off and become fast friends. Wiseau eventually manages to convince Sestero to drop everything and move to Los Angeles with him to achieve their lifelong dreams and pursue careers in show business, and Sestero agrees, much to his mother’s dismay.

After nearly two years of failed auditions, coupled with constant frustration and humiliation, the disgruntled partners-in-crime decide to instead shoot their own motion picture, without having to worry about the ridiculously high standards and expectations of greedy Hollywood executives. Wiseau concocts a screenplay with an aptly mysterious title to match his equally mysterious background: The Room. The rest, as they say, is history. A piece of film history that truly has to be seen to be believed, The Room’s devoted audience and cult following have continued to grow in recent years, all thanks to unintentional hilarity stemming from its bizarre style of storytelling, ridiculously over-the-top acting, cringe-worthy screenplay, and even a couple of uncomfortably long sex scenes.

The acting performances in The Disaster Artist are as outstanding as the performances in The Room are unwatchable. The title of the movie’s MVP unanimously belongs to James Franco, who carries each and every one of his scenes on his back. He is a world-class bodybuilder and the movie is his weights. Whether he’s desperately attempting to impress Hollywood executives with his unintelligible deliveries of Shakespeare monologues or clumsily dancing like a drunken monkey to Corona’s “Rhythm of the Night” in a crowded nightclub, the elder Franco brother doesn’t miss a beat in his finely-tuned performance of the bizarre yet beautiful blemish on the face of Hollywood known as Tommy Wiseau.

Despite being severely upstaged by big brother James, the solid performance given by Dave Franco as Wiseau’s buddy Greg Sestero shouldn’t be taken with a grain of salt. Dave manages to rile up a sense of sympathy from the audience. Sestero realizes the terrible trainwreck of The Room while in production. However, his desperation in achieving his boyhood dreams of seeing his name displayed in lights and enjoying major Hollywood success, accompanied with his devotion to his best friend, prevent him from standing up to the dictator-like tactics of director Tommy Wiseau. These tactics range from cruelty, such as incessenantly insulting the physical appearance of the actress he himself hired to shoot a sex scene with, to attempted murder, by vehemently refusing to provide the cast and crew with water or air conditioning when the temperature was over 100 degrees.

The puppeteer pulling the strings behind the film’s stellar acting is its rib-tickling screenplay. Penned by veteran silver screen tag team Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer, The Fault in Our Stars), the dynamic duo adapt Greg Sestero’s autobiography with a sense of Hollywood lampooning and humorous sarcasm that is simply irresistible. The screenplay has even earned the pals an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, a rare feat for a comedy film that pushes the envelope as much as The Disaster Artist dares to. Should it bring home the bacon – that bacon being the Oscar statuette – not only will the two deservedly earn the greatest honor in film, but they will also eerily mirror the aspirations and incidental success of Sestero and Wiseau in the movie.

However, similar to how one should be cautious of taking a dip into the pool after eating a meal, one should probably wait to view The Disaster Artist until they view the absurdity that is The Room. Much of the humor in the film-within-a-film contains in-jokes and references to its source material that may leave casual and lower-tier film buffs scratching their heads. An example includes a pivotal scene in which Wiseau annoys script supervisor Sandy Schklair (Rogen) by constantly screwing up his now infamous line, “I did not hit her, it’s not true, I did not…oh, hi, Mark!” The scene is a riot for those who are familiar with the original awkward scene in The Room, but others may be confused.

The perennial legacy of The Room is without question; fans still attend midnight showings fifteen years later, tossing footballs around the theater and shouting the most quotable lines along with their favorite characters on-screen. In The Disaster Artist, James Franco manages to pull off an exceptionally impressive hat trick, as he not only reminds everyone he is a hilarious actor, but also proves to audiences that he is an intelligent director and producer. Humorous and even a bit heartwarming, the feature serves as a dual behind-the-scenes look into the eccentric brain of Tommy Wiseau and as a biting satire of the world of Hollywood and show-business. Aside from this, it holds the unique distinction in that it is a comedy film with a moral that isn’t cheesy or shoehorned in at the last minute. This moral is that the people who are laughing at you one day, may be cheering you on and laughing with you the next day. Viewers should still keep in mind, however, that it would be wise to view The Room first to experience The Disaster Artist to its fullest and most comedic extent. Rating: 4.5/5

Director: James Franco

Written by: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber

Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Josh Hutcherson, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron

Rating: R

Running time: 1 hr 43 min

Genre: Comedy-drama