Dir. James Franco
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson
The Disaster Artist is the based-on-true-story movie about the making of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. The Room is largely considered the best worst movie ever made. A film so bad that it becomes funny, and has since become a cult classic. As one of the famous talking heads says at the beginning of the film, nobody is talking about the Best Picture winner from 2003, but 14 years on people are still talking about The Room. The Disaster Artist, also adapted from the book of the same name, attempts to unravel how this film came to be, and explore who the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau really is.
Directed by James Franco, and produced by Seth Rogen, it’s easy to draw comparisons between the production of The Room, and the production of The Disaster Artist. Tommy Wiseau just wanted to make a movie for himself, and maybe more importantly for his best friend Greg. Franco and Rogen are famously good friends, and the cast is packed out with their friends and family. James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, a man of undetermined origin, and age. He says he is from New Orleans, but his accent is clearly european. He says he is the same age as Greg, but is clearly much older. After becoming friends at acting class, Tommy invites Greg out to live with him in LA to pursue their acting dreams. After a series of rejections for the both of them, Tommy decides to make his own movie, writing, producing, directing, and starring in The Room.
The film is is undoubtedly hilarious, and not just the faithful recreations of scenes from The Room, a lot of the humour centres around Tommy and his left of field view of the world. It would have been easy to play Tommy as a caricature, or to simply do a impression. It’s James Franco’s skill as both a director, and an actor, that his Tommy never feels like either. He humanizes Tommy, and this choice makes the film much more of a character study than just a simple making-of comedy. The joy of the film is that it’s about so many different things. It’s about following your dreams, it’s about the way Hollywood treats people, it’s about friendship, and maybe it’s about an unrequited love.
As much fun as it is to watch Tommy’s inexperienced decisions, like filming the whole movie in both 35mm film, and digital, the real meat of the movie is in the scenes between Tommy and Greg, played by James Franco’s real life brother Dave. This is where James Franco’s direction really excels, as he’s not afraid to show a slightly dark under belly to Tommy, making us question his motives. It’s hinted that maybe he wanted to be more than just friends with Greg, and the film explores the idea of control. Tommy knew what Greg’s dreams were, and exploited that to keep him around when he felt like he was losing him. Tommy talks about Hitchcock a lot, and there’s a real sense of Vertigo’s controlling Jimmy Stewart in the scene where Tommy makes Greg shave for a scene, especially after calling him “baby face” for the first act of the movie.
Overall, The Disaster Artist is a hilarious comedy. It’s laugh out loud funny from start to finish, but there is so much more there than you would expect. It’s a much better film than any would have guessed. Working as both comedic making of, and touching character study, it excels as both. The performances are great throughout, but it’s the Franco show, with both James and Dave putting in some career best performances, and with James showing that he has some real talent behind the camera too.