In July 2003, a movie called The Room, written, produced, and directed by unknown Tommy Wiseau, opened in a single theater in LA to very little attention. Someone must have seen it though, because the legend behind how bad the movie was grew to the point until it began playing at midnight in theaters across the country, turning it into a cult hit.In 2013, a book by actor Greg Sestero called The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made was published, generating even more interest in Wiseau’s movie. And as these things go, James Franco’s new adaptation of Sestero’s book is undoubtedly going to make Wiseau and The Room even more infamous.
Greg (Dave Franco) first meets Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in a San Francisco acting class when Greg was 19 and Wiseau was a much older, indeterminable age. They become fast friends and when Greg finds out Tommy has a place in LA, they decide to move there together to pursue their acting dreams. Frustrated by his lack of success, Tommy ultimately realizes he’s going to make his own movie, showcasing their talents, and three years later, The Room is ready to roll with Tommy’s bottomless bank account funding the project.
The Disaster Artist comes off a lot like Ed Wood or even American Splendor where it feels like there’s always multiple layers to what Franco is doing, especially when it starts with testimonials by well-known actors who are fans of The Room. Maybe it’s also because Franco is acting and directing his own script, similar to Wiseau, although having the original movie and Sestero’s book as a road map certainly helped create a sense of authenticity to telling this true story.
It’s almost 40 minutes into the movie before we get to Wiseau’s decision to make The Room, but their friendship already hits a hurdle when Greg meets Amber (Alison Brie) and they start dating. Tommy is clearly jealous and worried he’s losing his best friend, even though he won’t express those fears out loud. He just stews and acts more like a tyrant on-set than usual.
Franco’s performance is quite amazing because at first, you’re laughing at Tommy, then you’re angry at him, but by the end, you’re feeling bad for him. All of those emotions come down to what Franco is doing in the role. His brother Dave ends up having to act against a performance that’s so amazing, it’s impossible for him not to get shown up.
Then you have just an amazing array of other roles filled by the likes of Seth Rogen, Megan Mullally, Paul Scheer and Jacki Weaver, as well as a few funny unexpected cameos.
You don’t have to have seen The Room to fully enjoy The Disaster Artist, but conveniently, Franco includes a side-by-side comparison of how he recreated Wiseau’s work during the end credits.
As much as The Disaster Artist is about The Room, it’s just as much about the relationship between Tommy and Greg, the hurdles they face—mainly Greg—and how they come out the other side better friends than before. Just like The Room, The Disaster Artist is the type of comedy you have to watch in a theater with a big, rowdy crowd. With this movie, James Franco has cemented Wiseau’s legacy, as much as he has his own as a filmmaker.
The Disaster Artist is scheduled for limited release on Dec. 1 and wide release on Dec. 8.
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