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The Disaster Artist Review

December 29, 2017 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
The Disaster Artist
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The Disaster Artist Review  

Directed By: James Franco
Written By: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber; Based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
Runtime: 104 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity

Dave Franco – Greg Sestero/Mark
James Franco – Tommy Wiseau/Johnny
Seth Rogen – Sandy
Alison Brie – Amber
Paul Scheer – Raphael
Ari Graynor – Juliette/Lisa
Jason Mantzoukas – Peter
Hannibal Buress – Bill
Charlyne Yi – Safoya
Josh Hutcherson – Philip/Danny
Zac Efron – Dan/Chris R.
Megan Mullally – Mrs. Sestero
Sharon Stone – Iris Burton

As a bad movie, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room has achieved a rare type of cult status that great films and underrated gems rarely do. For better or worse, it’s become a widely discussed and lampooned cinematic that has achieved a strangely significant level of fame, whether it’s infamous or not. The Disaster Artist is actor-director James Franco’s journey behind the curtain to one of the world’s most beloved bad movies in history; adapted from the book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.

At the heart of The Disaster Artist is the unique relationship between young adult model Greg (James’ brother, Dave) and Tommy. Greg dreams of becoming an actor and after struggling in acting class is blown away by Tommy’s own outrageous presentation for his fearlessness. Not overly concerned with a bizarre figure as Tommy, a man of indeterminate foreign origin and exact, the two decide to move out to Los Angeles together to make their dreams of film stardom come true. And credit to brothers Franco because that is where The Disaster Artist is at its strongest. That idea that these two men sought to make things happen for themselves. While it was not how they intended, in a strange, ironic and weird way, they did accomplish what they set out to do.

However, at the heart of the relationship is a significant amount of toxicity. After moving out to Los Angeles and finding a dearth of success and a heaping amount of rejection, some of which is more than righteous where Wiseau is concerned, Tommy and Greg decide to say to heck with the system and make their own movie together. And after some years of tapping into his vast intellect, Tommy completes his script for The Room. From there, the film switches gears to the hellish production process, where Tommy is downright abusive to his cast and crew, along with the slow deterioration of Greg and Tommy’s toxic relationship. The rest of the story is well documented.

What seems off about The Disaster Artist is the weird reverence for The Room not as some cinematic masterpiece but some weird sort of quasi-success story that it turned out to be. Part of the popularity and cult status of The Room is most certainly steeped in Tommy Wiseau as this enigmatic figure. However, Franco’s film comes off as far more interested in reinforcing the myths for the film rather than deconstructing them. For example, there’s one scene where Seth Rogen as Sandy, the beleaguered script supervisor of The Room, attempts to cash his check for his work on the production. The scene pays lip service to the idea that Tommy Wiseau seems to have piles of cash and no one has any idea how that’s possible or where this seeming fortune in the millions came from. That’s the only scene like that where the film switches perspectives to another character, and the subplot is never really revisited or resolved at all.

Other than that, Franco puts in an interesting performance as Wiseau. At times, there’s an odd sincerity to Wiseau. Franco does manage to make Wiseau feel like a real character with agency. There are times in the movie where Franco’s role does come off like a YouTube parody sketch, as if he’s an actor doing a goofy imitation. That’s not the core of the character, but there’s an undeniable ambivalence to framing Wiseau as this type of underdog hero that almost overrides how toxic and monstrous he is.

Dave Franco is a little weak and underwhelming as Greg, who is for all intents and purposes the true protagonist of the story. Franco is clearly trying hard, but his performance comes off more like he’s trying to act dramatic and sincere rather than truly living as the character of Greg Sestero.

The Disaster Artist will probably serve as a fun dramatic companion piece to people who enjoy The Room experience. As a film it’s adequate, but it never truly ascends to the greatness Wiseau thought he was achieving with his so-called magnum opus.

The final score: review Average
The 411
The Disaster Artist is a decent enough movie to offer a dramatic look behind the making of one of the most notorious bad movies in cinematic history. Franco does well with some of the dramatic moments, but his story comes off as far too reverent of Tommy Wiseau and The Room than is really deserved. The film seems more about building up and maintaining the mystique of such subject's rather than truly deconstructing them. In a way, Tommy Wiseau did accomplish his goals, just not in a way he expected.