MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Docudrama-Comedy/ Stars: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Hannibal Buress, Andrew Santino, Brian Huskey, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Paul Scheer, Casey Wilson, Zoey Deutch, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Randall Park, Jerrod Carmichael, Kate Upton, Sugar Lyn Beard, Bob Odenkirk, Bryan Cranston, Zach Braff, J.J. Abrams, Lizzy Caplan, Kirsten Bell, Keegan Michael-Key, Adam Scott, Danny McBride, Judd Apatow, Angelyne/ Runtime: 103 minutes
Oh hai Mark! I feel that I should start this review off by saying that and also by saying that in the realm of what can only best be described as true cinematic enigmas movie goers I feel that there are truly few if any modern stories that could even remotely qualify as stranger than the tale of Tommy Wiseau and The Room. This is because in all honesty the former has to be without a doubt one of the most untalented actor/filmmakers to ever grace this little blue planet, and the latter is a “film” that is so incredibly bizarre and terrible that by the end of it you ultimately find yourself question whether what you just saw was actually made by an even remotely sane human mind. Indeed a true blue dictionary definition of “so bad it’s good,” the 2003 piece of work is also a unique experience that ultimately, in addition to everything else, will leave you helplessly and dazedly wondering about each and every single terrible beyond all imaging decision that was made in the creation process of this iconic slice of cinema.
Thankfully however, we now have James Franco’s The Disaster Artist to tell that particular story and upon seeing it I can safely say that the finished product truly is as weird and funny as you would hope. Indeed when you bring together fantastic turns from both James Franco and his brother, Dave, a mile-long list of funny and surprising cameos, and a legitimately heart-felt story about the powers that are passion and expression what you find yourself with at the end of the day is a truly fantastic look at what happens when a brilliant stranger-than-fiction tale falls in the hands of the perfect cast and crew, and at the end of the day manages to come together as one of the best movies of Winter 2017.
The plot is as follows: The Disaster Artist takes audiences back to San Francisco in the long far-gone year of 1998 where we are quickly introduced to young man named Greg Sestero (Dave Franco). Greg is a young aspiring actor who really lacks the confidence required to give him any kind of screen presence whatsoever. It is perhaps because of this that Greg finds himself somewhat in awe of Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), a….person who can best be described as an oddball, pale-eyed, strange-looking member of his acting class and whose acting style it can best be said leans towards what one might call “explosive drama”, but another might call “stark, raving madness”. Nevertheless it isn’t long before, due to being drawn in by Tommy’s self-assurance and also being completely and totally blind to the fact that this guy is absolutely talentless, that Greg seeks him out for guidance, and thus a “beautiful friendship” is quickly formed between the 2 misfits. Of course along with that Greg quickly finds out that the more you know about Tommy, the less you know about him. This is because while clearly an older guy, he claims to be as young as 19 as well as the fact that not only does he speak with an often-unintelligible accent, yet claims to have been born and raised in New Orleans, but also because while Tommy comes across as a complete moron (no surprise really), he manages to possess an immense fortune that basically lets him do whatever he wants.
Naturally, the fact that he never really questions any of this (stranger danger alert really should’ve gone off at some point though to be honest) is what allows Greg to form a close bond with Tommy. Thus after a few months of working together they decide to just drop everything and make a run at their collective Hollywood dreams and move down to Los Angeles. Of course it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that like millions before them, Greg and Tommy find the film industry to be a haven of rejection, and their dreams of achieving stardom flicker with every failed audition. Yet, unlike a lot of those millions, it’s the disappointment that manages to spark for both of them a truly “brilliant” idea: if they can’t get hired to star in other peoples’ movies, then they should just make a movie themselves. Thus it’s with this iron-clad thought running through their heads that inspires Tommy to write and direct The Room aka his vision of a romantic drama with himself in the lead role, and it isn’t long before the wheels are in motion, with the production somehow, and quite amazingly, managing to pick up a full cast and crew. Of course seeing as this is an endeavor that is being spearheaded by a crazy man with moronic stripes it isn’t long before a seemingly never-ending series of terrible decisions arises that quickly, and hilariously, cause things to begin to unravel…..
Now The Disaster Artist is significant in that this film marks the very first time that the Franco brothers have ever collaborated on a project. Indeed while they are both given vastly wild and different material to work with, they’re really both magnificent in their individual roles. Of course, and as you would expect, Tommy’s unique….personality is what will, undoubtedly, make James Franco the principal eye-catcher, but to be honest with you readers it truly goes much further than that. That is because in all honesty in order to play this cult movie “icon” we are treated to a truly authentic, transformative performance that is really unlike anything we’ve previously seen from actor/director James Franco. Indeed he really manages to successfully add the important element of humanity to a guy who every time he is on screen really truly just comes across as what we can best describe as what exactly an extraterrestrial from a far off galaxy’s interpretation of a person would look like. Not only that, but Franco is also successful in how, despite managing to maintain an air of mystery in his characterization of Tommy, you’re still able to understand him somewhat through Franco’s showcase of Wiseau’s motivations, priorities and relationships — screwed up as they all may be.
Now while James Franco will certainly draw a lot of the acclaim for The Disaster Artist due to being the lead/ directing the film I also feel that what Dave Franco manages to deliver in this film deserves its fair share of due recognition as well. This is because while Greg Sestero could easily, in the wrong hands, have come across either as a fool for not understanding Tommy Wiseau’s lack of talent, or as a sinister individual given the resources provided to him by the friendship with Tommy Dave Franco manages to avoid both of those clichés altogether. Instead the younger Franco manages to impressively showcase a performance that is an excellent combination of impressive earnestness and innocent ambition as well. Indeed while the world at large may not, if at all, understand Tommy in the slightest, Dave manages to sell that he really does, and by doing so manages to add just the right amount of a certain magic to the narrative and proceedings.
Now while the fact that that the Francos are siblings does manage to add a special layer to The Disaster Artist we also feel that the movie is also wonderfully enhanced by the director’s status in film community. Indeed nowhere is this seen more evidently than in the impressive star power that this movie possesses with Seth Rogen, who has been working with James Franco since the 1999 TV series Freaks and Geeks, and Paul Scheer proving to be absolute standouts in their roles of key members of The Room film crew who, from day 1 it feels like, just find themselves in a state of absolute and constant befuddlement in regards to what exactly, if anything, is going through Tommy’s mind. Honestly though they are just two of the many, many recognizable faces that find themselves all brought together in order to recreate this story and amazingly every single cast member manages to find a memorable moment to play within the story. This not only supports the film from a comedic perspective, as many of the actors in this film truly do rank among the industry’s funniest performers and also are given ample opportunity to demonstrate their various gifts, but this also does the ironic job of even managing to somewhat complete the full ambition of The Room. That is because Tommy Wiseau always imagined his magnum opus as a “big Hollywood movie,” and now, thanks to The Disaster Artist, the film within a film now has the very star power that Wiseau always wanted it to have.
All in all and at the end of the day The Disaster Artist is a true love letter to a feature fiasco that has managed to deliver a lot of, on the part of the cast and crew, unintentional joy to the cinematic world for the last 14 years yet I feel it is safe to say that those familiar with The Room will have an enhanced appreciation for it. Nevertheless though this is not solely a film for that audience. That is because even if you’ve never heard of The Room I find that what James Franco has to offer here with The Disaster Artist is a fantastic, and wonderfully hilarious and heartfelt look at a true Hollywood story that proves to be as phenomenal as its subject matter is endearingly and wonderfully awful. On a scale of 1–5 I give The Disaster Artist a 4 out of 5.