Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 magnum opus The Room has slowly become the stuff of cinematic legend. Destined for the scrap heap of film obscurity, two friends – who shared a deep passion for the The Room’s quirks and eccentricities invited – others to see the film in an empty L.A cinema. It is from there that a worldwide phenomenon was born.
For those unfamiliar with the magic of The Room, it is the epitome of B-movie cinema. A film so bad that fans around the world, including myself, gather for midnight screenings to witness its corny dialogue, wooden acting, red herrings, continuity issues, green screen disasters, characters disappearing and framed pictures of spoons, all wrapped in a tale of love, betrayal and loss. It is an excruciatingly painful but blissfully absurd education in bad movie making. During screenings its flaws are enhanced by audience participation, whether it be through the throwing of plastic spoons at the screen or through dedicated fans dressing up as their favourite character. It is an unorthodox cinematic experience, but it is quite possibly the best collective cinematic experience available.
Greg Sestero, who plays the disloyal Mark in the film, recounts the making of The Room in his new book, The Disaster Artist. A $6 million vanity project, The Room’s production was a nightmare experience for all involved, with the twisted delusions of director, writer, executive producer and lead star Tommy Wiseau puppeteering the circus environment. The tales and anecdotes provided by Sestero verge from the unbelievably funny to the brutally painful, adding weight to a fascinating and absorbing depiction of one of contemporary cinema’s most bizarre creations.
Sestero spends much of the opening chapters alternating between film production and dissecting the trials and tribulations of acting in Hollywood, from mingling with future stars to the ifs, buts and maybes that accompany such a career. It is through Sestero’s experiences within acting classes where we are introduced to Tommy Wiseau. Their introduction is surreal, yet Sestero admits to feeling compelled, drawn to the figure of energy that beautifully captures how not to act. Sestero’s analysis seems self reflective, a chance to grasp just how he got caught up in the contorted world of Wiseau, as well as coming to a detailed conclusion as to why his own acting career never reached the heights his younger self dreamed of. For any aspiring actor, Sestero’s story is a revealing one.
However, the information about the character, actions and philosophy of Tommy Wiseau may be the great selling point for fans of the film. Prior to publication, very little information was given about Tommy’s life, with only his own rhetoric available to satisfy fan curiosity. How old is he? Where did he really come from? How did he amass such a large fortune? These are some of the questions that fans crave answers to. The Disaster Artist is evidently aware of such interest, and indeed plays along with the aura surrounding Tommy by tantalisingly feeding small snippets of information about Tommy as the tale progresses.
While Sestero supplies detail into how he and Tommy got on as friends, from their initial encounter to the years that followed, it isn’t until the second half of the book where we really delve into the fascinating world Tommy inhabits. The book pieces together what is fact and what is fiction, and attempts to bring as much conclusion to Tommy’s story as fans are likely to get. While the ambiguity between this fact and fiction may frustrate some, it’s in keeping with Wiseau’s persona. A persona that keeps fans guessing as to whether what he says is to be believed.
Sestero’s writing is undoubtedly strong and, more importantly, honest. He eloquently stitches together both his friendship with Tommy and the behind the scenes action of producing The Room. While the shifting of narrative between these two tales may in theory seem disconcerting, Sestero manages to engage you in each part of the story, knowing that the book’s structure ultimately serves to demonstrate the light and dark sides to Tommy’s persona in an accessible and approachable way.
As a friend, Wiseau is shown to be caring, thoughtful and philosophical, providing a quirky, unconventional perspective on the modern world. However, in a position of power, as demonstrated through the production of The Room, Wiseau is shown to selfish, arrogant and delusional, so much so that cast and crew felt great hostility toward the star of the show. Whether there is a greater allegory being created here is open to interpretation, but what is apparent is that Wiseau’s character is both upbeat yet deeply troubled. He is man that is desperate to be loved.
For fans of the film, The Disaster Artist is undoubtedly a required purchase, purely for the experience of falling down the rabbit hole and engaging with one of film’s most gloriously deluded yet brilliantly optimistic characters. For those still yet to witness the great wonders The Room has to offer, The Disaster Artist paints an extraordinary tale of the American dream and the benefits that are reaped with hard work and opportunism.
From the depressing depths of solitude to the elation of finally seeing a dream come to fruition, The Disaster Artist is a journey worth taking.
The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room is available now.
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