The Disaster Artist Director: James Franco
Talent: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogan Released: 8 December
James Franco must be getting used to this meta-acting lark by now. In HBO drama The Deuce he plays both the lead Vincent Martino and his halfwit brother Frankie; sometimes arguing with himself, sometimes joking with himself, but nearly always in the same scenes. The Disaster Artist takes this mindfuckery to a whole new level. It’s a movie about a movie, in which Franco plays the director, meaning he had to act as the director of a movie within a movie he was directing. Confused? Imagine being Franco.
The movie in question is The Room. For the uninitiated, here’s the rub: The Room is the worst movie ever made. No really, it’s that bad. It’s so bad that you can’t believe anyone actually made it. And what’s worse, writer/director Tommy Wiseau supposedly spent $6 million dollars making it. I say ‘supposedly’ because there are very few hard facts about The Room. It’s become such a cult phenomenon that it’s grown a mythology of its own. It’s still screened regularly worldwide and even launched its own underwear range. Basically, it’s a thing.
The Disaster Artist seeks to tell the story of how and why someone made such a terrible film. The centre of this story is Tommy Wiseau who decided to make The Room after being rejected by the Hollywood establishment. And you can see why. Wiseau isn’t exactly your conventional leading man. He’s got long black hair, likes to wear multiple belts and has a yet-to-be identified Eastern European accent. If every movie was some sort of rehash of The Matrix, Wiseau might land a supporting role. Maybe.
The humour of The Disaster Artist all centres on Wiseau. It starts off as an unlikely buddy comedy between Wiseau (James Franco) and a guy he meets at acting class called Greg Sestero (Dave Franco). The two hit it off and decide to move to LA to pursue their dream of making it. It’s there that Wiseau decides to pen his script and the ensuing madness of The Room’s production begins.
Given that The Room achieved fame for its awfulness it would have been easy for James Franco to simply poke at it. He didn’t. This feels more like a tribute Wiseau than the flogging you might expect. The creators clearly have a lot of sympathy for the man and his beautifully naive brand of optimism. Franco has said that he sees a lot of himself in Wiseau and the admiration is clear.
It feels important at this point to state that The Disaster Artist is hilarious. Ridiculously funny. The funniest thing you’ll see all year kind of funny. Franco’s performance as Tommy Wiseau is pitch perfect and there are lots of hat-tips towards The Room to please the hardcore fans. The decision to reshoot some of the original scenes frame-by-frame will also be similarly satisfying.
James Franco has done the admirable task of taking a bad movie and making it into a great one. Neustadter and Weber did a wonderful job of adapting the screenplay from the book Sestero co-wrote and they do well to keep Wiseau centre stage. The Disaster Artist may be unlikely to be replayed as fervently as The Room was but it is a great comedy in its own right and will ensure that the latter gains another generation of fans.
Words: Cal Byrne