The Disaster Artist is akin to Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Ed Wood was a movie about the passionate filmmaker Ed Wood, the director of Plan 9 From Outer Space, the Citizen Kane of bad movies. The Disaster Artist is about two people who just want to achieve their dreams of becoming actors, Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) and Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), and go all in, making their own movie called The Room, The Godfather of bad movies.
The Disaster Artist is a comedy-drama about the making of The Room (based on the book written by the real-life Greg Sestero). The Disaster Artist is a story that is so crazy and utterly insane, that if it were made up, the story might seem too far-fetched and over the top. But, alas the story is real and we as audiences get to wreak the benefits of it. The Disaster Artist is a hilarious and surprising heartfelt behind the scenes look at two people with big dreams and their unusual way of getting there.
Directing The Disaster Artist and starring as the eccentric Tommy Wiseau is James Franco. The role of Tommy Wiseau is a difficult part to play. Wiseau is such an eccentric person that the temptation is almost too great to be simply over the top. Towards the beginning of the film, I was worried Franco was about to simply play to Wiseau’s over the top persona and add little else. Then as the film went on Franco’s unhinged performance truly began to shine. The nuances began to show; this is not simply an impersonation of Wiseau but a full-fledged performance. Franco characterizes Wiseau as the underdog, a man with such drive and passion. He can be difficult to work with but he always aspires to be the best. This is simply put one of the best and most layered performances Franco has ever put forth.
As a director, Franco has had mixed results in his previous efforts (with many of his projects floating beneath the radar). While The Disaster Artist isn’t an especially audacious effort on Franco’s part, this is easily the best Franco has delivered as a director. He brings forth his passion for the project that really shines through in all the scenes he directs (especially when it comes time to recreating actual scenes from The Room). The handheld and grainy film style really works towards grounding an otherwise ludicrous narrative. The mix of comedy and drama seems to be more in Franco’s wheelhouse then his previous efforts (like when he attempted to adapt Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God).
The Disaster Artist embraces the ridiculousness of The Room‘s production. This was truly a circus gone completely wrong and The Disaster Artist is consistently funny throughout the runtime by embracing that. The comedy works for not only for people who have seen The Room but for also for newcomers as well. The friend I attended this film screening with had never seen the room and laughed perhaps even more than I did.
The Disaster Artist never resorts to pandering to its audience nor is the comedy mean-spirited. With The Room being so terrible it would be easy to punch downwards and really makes Wiseau and Sestero be nothing more than idiots instead of forming them into real people. So even if Franco isn’t the greatest director working today he brings his unbridled love and passion for The Room to The Disaster Artist which is shown in each scene. Perhaps if this wasn’t made by a director who had such passion this The Room might have seemed like nothing more than a punching bag to The Room.
Playing opposite James Franco is Jame’s younger brother Dave Franco. While some criticism has been leveled at Dave Franco for not being as good of a Sestero as James is a Wiseau, the important component is there for this story to work, chemistry. Dave Franco might not be as good as James but he does give a good performance and has a great rapport with his brother. As an audience, we have to feel the connection between these two men. If the connection isn’t there the story doesn’t work. James casting his brother was a stroke of genius and really helps bring the relationship to life. The drama really hits in between the laughs. Sestero and Wiseau clearly do have a connection, a friendship that gets strained through the shoot.
The Disaster Artist is a movie that really understands the feelings of having a creative dream and the struggles of trying to fulfill those dreams. Mustering the courage to put your artistic work out is one of the most difficult things to do. To see the pathos and emotion come out in key scenes for Wiseau was truly stirring to watch. This really helped elevate The Disaster Artist to not just about a movie about making a bad movie but a movie about the struggles of artistic pursuit.
Last year La La Land came out and also featured a story about two people trying to achieve their dreams in Hollywood while maintaining a relationship with each other. The Disaster Artist is almost the same story as La La Land. Two people in Hollywood look to achieve their dreams that share a close relationship with one another (Wiseau and Sestero) . The antithesis between the two films though is The Disaster Artist is about failure and finding success and happiness in that failure while La La Land is about succeeding at the cost of a relationship. The Disaster Artist is truly an ode to those who are passionate about creating in a similar way to La La Land (as odd as that may sound). The movie is strangely touching as it is ridiculous. And while The Disaster Artist does stumble a bit with an ending that feels a little rushed and a middle section that loses a bit of focus, I left the theater having been emotionally stirred and my chest aching from laughter. The Disaster Artist isn’t quite a masterpiece but it is none the less a great movie.