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The Disaster Artist
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie
Director: James Franco
Genre: Biography Drama
RUNTIME: 104 Mins
If The Room is the Citizen Kane of bad movies, then The Disaster Artist could have almost been the Ed Wood of biographical depictions.
The Disaster Artist is based on a 2013 memoir of the same name, written by Greg Sestero, in which he reveals details about the development and production of the cult classic The Room with Tommy Wiseau.
The Room was released in 2003, after being written, directed, produced and starred in by Wiseau, an aspiring and notably peculiar filmmaker. Greg Sestero, a then-struggling actor, also features in the film and holds a producing credit for it.
It is widely considered to be one of the worst films ever made, yet the bizarre storytelling and obvious technical flaws have turned it into a cult film favourite of audiences everywhere. The Disaster Artist is James Franco’s adaptation of Sestero’s memoir, taking a closer look at the creation of probably the best worst film ever.
James Franco takes centre stage as the mysterious and almost heartbreakingly passionate Tommy Wiseau, a visionary that doesn’t seem to quite understand his own vision. Dave Franco, his brother, takes on the role of Greg Sestero, an insecure but driven actor looking for his big break.
The two meet in an acting class in 1998, and soon form a close, albeit weird, friendship. After moving to Los Angeles to try and make it in the film business only to find rejection at every turn, Wiseau and Sestero agree to write and produce their own film, titled The Room.
It would have been so easy for The Disaster Artist to become an hour and 44 minutes of ridiculing Wiseau and his failure to comprehend both filmmaking and human behaviour.
Yet, whilst it isn’t perfect, James Franco’s portrayal is a humanising rendition of a man so consumed by creating something that resembles the movies he loves, that we end up feeling something for him that resembles sympathy more than distaster.
Dave Franco brings Greg Sestero to life through his frosted tips and sheepish optimism, and in the way he’s simultaneously enamoured and confused by Tommy Wiseau. Their friendship is the crux that holds the film together even at its least relatable moments, so we don’t get too lost in the incomprehensible world of Wiseau’s creation.
This is the Franco brothers’ first collaboration together, and they bring a quirky chemistry to the screen. The sincerity of their belief in one another is overwhelming and sickly, often teetering between hopefulness and pure naivety, propelling The Room towards completion.
The film also features appearances from other actors, including Seth Rogen who plays Sandy Schklair, a seasoned and exasperated script supervisor.
Alison Brie, Ari Graynor and Josh Hutcherson also star in the movie. What all of them do in a fantastic and nuanced way is show us that they too have no idea what to make of what is happening around them, so we really aren’t expected to either.
As to whether or not this movie is funny, well, that’s tricky. It’s funny in the way that watching The Room itself is funny, reacting to an odd man’s odd concept of what ‘good’ filmmaking is. Wiseau idolises James Dean, but clearly doesn’t understand how to recreate Dean’s all-American appeal.
Yet, the fact that he fails in his original design doesn’t feel too much like failure in the end. Despite the heartbreak and difficulty, Wiseau and Sestero realise they have made something that could withstand the test of time, although perhaps not quite in the way they were anticipating.
I highly recommend watching The Room prior to The Disaster Artist. You may regret it, but it means you get to hear the famous ‘oh hi Mark!’ line from the mouth of Wiseau himself.
It’ll also help you judge whether Franco treats Wiseau as an authentic and complex human being, or more of a gimmicky impersonation, whose eccentricities are a novelty rather than something to be considered with care.
In the end, the film forces us to really contemplate what Sestero originally concludes in his memoir: ‘it is powerful and dangerous to hold unconditional belief in one’s dreams’.
Now showing in: City Centre, Seef II, Dana, Novo, Mukta A2
Anna’s Verdict: 3/5