TL;DR – The Disaster Artist is … Well, it is certainly … Well um … what did I just watch?
Score – I have no right idea out of 5 stars
P.S. – There is a very odd post-credit scene
Ok let’s get this out of the way right from the start, I have never watched The Room the film by Tommy Wiseau on which The Disaster Artist based on. Have I heard about it? Yes of course, whenever there is a discussion of worst films or scenes or actors or scripts or well you name it The Room is there. So while I have not watched it, I am familiar with it, but I have never felt the need to watch it all the way through. Look I know it has become a bit of a cult classic, but unlike films that have become cult classics like the Rocky Horror Picture Show or Tron, it always felt that people were more than a little mean-spirited watching something just to make fun of how bad it is. But here we are 20 odd years later and so let’s take a dive into the production of what is considered the worst film ever made by some.
So to set the scene, it is the late 1990s and in San Francisco Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is an aspiring actor trying to discover his passion in an acting class. This is where he meets for the first time Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) as he gives an impassioned performance of “STELLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”. Greg is intrigued by this, as his big issue is getting the confidence to act in front of an audience, and after an impromptu performance in a diner, they become friends. All of this leads to the both of them moving to Los Angeles to try and make it as actors. But Los Angles is a cruel and capricious world where luck and connections can sometimes lead you more places than hard work or even talent. All of this leads the two to embark on a process to create their own film, The Room.
The first thing you notice is that this is not just some throwaway period piece, oh lord I talked about the 1990s as a period piece, wow was not prepared to deal with those feels tonight. Indeed, there is an interesting parallel between The Disaster Artist and The Room as they are both films where a group of friends have come together to create (or in this case recreate a film). Interestingly one of the things that I thought would annoy me is that the two unrelated characters Greg and Tommy are played by the very much related James and Dave Franco. However, they make it work because firstly they have used prosthetics with James to alter his face slightly, and also it does kind of feel like James was destined to play this role and it really works. As well as this, Dave is instantly enduring as Greg and really helps drive the film through all the highs and lows. As well as this, we have Alison Brie, Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Hannibal Buress and Jason Mantzoukas filling out the supporting cast, and that is not even starting on the cameos, most notably at the start. None of it feels like stunt casting, and every role brings in at least something interesting to the film.
Where the film gets stuck is that it falls into the trap of wanting to have its cake and eat it too, and quite pull it off. You can see that clearly in both how it champions and yet vilifies Tommy as a character. Now yes this is based on real-life events, and real people are never as consistent as you usually get in cinema, but the film wants us to both admire Tommy but also find him to be deeply problematic. Yes as a narrative device it is possible to walk that thin line, but I don’t think The Disaster Artist pulled that off. So you spend a lot of the film wondering if the film celebrating or ridiculing him, and thinking back a day later I’m still not sure which one it is. This is best exemplified with, and [SPOILERS], when we see Tommy acting out of jealousy at Greg’s new found happiness with his girlfriend Amber (Alison Brie) engaging in, at best, a deeply unprofessional sex scene with Juliette (Ari Graynor) and I don’t think you can take it on the best case scenario. As well as this, he then goes out of his way to ruin Greg’s chances to get a big break in the industry thanks to a moment of kindness from Bryan Cranston (Bryan Cranston). However, then at the end of the film, it wants you to feel sorry for him that people are mocking his film. No sorry, you can’t go both ways, you have set him up to be either a villain or a sympathetic figure being mocked, not both.
Look in the end, as a film giving insight into one of the cult classics of the 1990s it is an interesting watch. Indeed, there is such an attention to detail that when they show the side by side shots at the end of the film it almost makes you wonder why they did not just do a shot by shot remake. However, outside of all this wackiness, the film can’t decide what it wants to be and how to show one of its main characters, and in the end, it really hurts it. So I am not sure I can recommend this, nor has it made me want to go and see the original, but it was fascinating at times, and it was interesting to see that Tommy Wiseau really is that interesting.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Disaster Artist
Directed by – James Franco
Screenplay by – Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Based on – The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell
Music by – Dave Porter
Cinematography by – Brandon Trost
Edited by – Stacey Schroeder
Starring – Dave Franco, James Franco, Alison Brie, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Hannibal Buress, Andrew Santino, June Diane Raphael, Jason Mantzoukas, Nathan Fielder, Brian Huskey, Sharon Stone, Megan Mullally, Brett Gelman, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Randall Park, Bryan Cranston & Judd Apatow
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R