THE DISASTER ARTIST
Starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver
Directed by James Franco
Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Based on the book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made,” by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
Produced by James Franco, Vince Jolivette, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, James Weaver
Cinematography by Brandon Trost
Edited by Stacey Schroeder
Music by Dave Porter
In 2003, an oddball, eccentric and mysterious movie directed by, produced by, written by and starring, in the lead role, an equally oddball, eccentric and mysterious Los Angeles and San Francisco man named Tommy Wiseau was released, with the equally oddball, eccentric and mysterious name “The Room.” The movie was, shall one say in perhaps a polite manner, not that great. In fact, let’s face it, manners aside, it was flat-out terrible. But, as the fickle finger of fate would have it, and as sometimes happens in show business, “The Room” was one of those movies that somehow, well, transcended its badness, its awfulness, its terribleness, and—somehow–became an equally oddball, eccentric and mysterious cult hit—among film fans, film industry insiders, savvy film-watchers, the midnight film circuit and others in on the joke. Yes, “The Room” is one of those rare films that is, simply, so bad it’s good. So horribly, terribly, cringy bad it’s an absolute hoot to watch and, yes, in another oddball, eccentric and mysterious way, actually enjoy.
Somehow. And that’s pretty much how to explain the cult and underground early success of “The Room” in a nutshell—the word somehow—because if anyone tried too hard to extend extensive brain power trying to decipher how the movie is actually endearing and lovable in that so-bad-it’s-good way, their brain would explode. “The Room”—like, say, Tiny Tim or Air Supply or Britney Spears or “Gilligan’s Island” or “Alf” or “Dr. Phil” or “Grease 2” or “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” or “Snakes on a Plane” or the “Sharknado” movies—is one of those wayward islands of show business detrimus that is so oddly, weirdly—and, yes, mysteriously—so bad, so cringe-worthy, so tacky and so campy, the entity suddenly becomes a popular culture hit.
And that’s exactly what happened with “The Room.” Although, there was another entity that also helped “The Room” along on its path to pop culture fame—a book written by one of the actors in the movie, Greg Sestero. Sestero is something of a hero and a saint, as he—somehow—became one of the few people to actually connect with, sympathize with and actually continue to support Wiseau through the tortured, painstaking—emphasis on the pain—making of “The Room.” Through some mysterious karma and cosmic force, Sestero came to understand and learn —somehow—the weird ways of Wiseau. He stuck by Wiseau through the making of “The Room,” knowing that things were going bad, that Wiseau was eccentric and, really, didn’t quite know how to make a good film or really make a film, period, and that the end result was not going to turn out, say, like “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather” or even “Grease 2.”
Thus, with the underground whispers about “The Room,” the book and increased viewings of the movie at theaters and online, “The Room” achieved that aforementioned level of cult fame. Soon, the movie caught the attention of those in Hollywood—especially James Franco and friend Seth Rogen. Rogen and his production company, Point Grey Pictures, wisely and quickly bought the film and book rights to Sestero’s book.
James Franco was also wisely chosen to direct and star as Tommy Wiseau—a brilliant move for Franco on both levels. If anyone was born to play Tommy Wiseau and direct a film about the making of “The Room,” it’s James Franco. Dave Franco was cast—also wisely—as Sestero, and Rogen joined the cast as “The Room’s” hapless, frustrated—but dogged—cinematographer, who ends up actually directing much of the movie. And add a most talented ensemble cast of comic actors who are—somehow—able to replicate the off-kilter, oddball, eccentric and mysterious dialogue, acting, directing, production design, pacing, timing, camera angles, story, storylines and characters of “The Room.”
Thus, presto, the film world now has Franco’s simply brilliant—and not at all mysteriously brilliant—comedy satire “The Disaster Artist,” which is absolutely hilarious, an instant classic, a film to definitely see in the theaters during the 2017 holiday season, the flat-out funniest film of 2017—and easily one of the funniest comedies to be released in years. “The Disaster Artist” is as excellent and highly-recommended as its source film, “The Room,” is awful and terrible.
“The Disaster Artist” tells the hilarious story about how Wiseau, Sestero and a ragged, stressed-out—and generally confused, bewildered and befuddled-cast and crew or dedicated, hard-working actors and filmmakers struggled to make “The Room,” putting up with Wiseau’s consistent inconsistencies, enduring eccentricity, strange decisions, bad acting, bad dialogue, bad production design, and, generally, weird, confusing decisions on just about every aspect concerning the making of “The Room.” However, there was an interesting catch to making “The Room:” Wiseau—in real-life and in the film, which follows the real-life experiences of making the movie very closely—actually had money. In fact, he had a lot of money—as one bank clerk says at one point, a “bottomless pit” of money. And this was—and still is—real: Wiseau had a ton of money. So that one aspect—which is usually one of the greatest difficulties and levels of stress for any film project, from backyard short films to the biggest blockbusters—was actually taken care of with the making of “The Room.” Not everyone knew or understood or perhaps cared about where Wiseau got his money, but the money was there. Thus, millions were spent on “The Room.” Everything else about the making of the movie was difficult, but the money was there.
“The Disaster Artist” tells the tale of the making of “The Room,” but as difficult as the making of the movie was, “The Disaster Artist” is straight-out funny from literally the first scene to the last scene, and the film is entertaining throughout on every filmic level. The movie is just a brilliant work of satiric, show business—and real-life—comedy.
And, on another level of brilliance—and excellent filmmaking—one actually does not even need to see the original “The Room” before seeing—and thoroughly enjoying—“The Disaster Artist.” Really—Franco’s film is so funny on its own, the movie stands squarely and easily on its own foundation, without any wobbly, shaky underlying need to see its source material. How is that accomplished? Through pure filmmaking talent—“The Disaster Artist” hones straight in on the most basic—and most difficult to achieve—elements of pure comedy: funny and original characters and characterization; a funny and original story, plot and subplots; funny and original dialogue and lines; excellent comedic timing, pacing, acting, line-readings and physical and facial actions; and, quite importantly, an experienced and knowledgeable insider’s view of show business, filmmaking, pursuing dreams and remaining dedicated to one’s art, vision and dreams; and, also quite importantly, maintaining amidst the chaos, madness, eccentricity and mystery that surrounds the making of the “The Room” a very real, and actually touching, endearing and kind heart, level of sympathy and level of understanding about the varied nature of humankind that actually exists in this world.
And without that last element—that positive, caring and understanding human heart and all that goes with that—“The Disaster Artist” may not have succeeded on the high level that the film succeeds. Because amid all of the comedy, Tommy Wiseau remains—to this day—a real person. He may be odd, eccentric, mysterious and difficult to understand, and he may have made a bad film and an accidental cult hit—but he is indeed a real person. He cares, he tries, he wants to succeed. He wants to act, he wants to make a good movie, he wants desperately to be seen and understood and taken seriously. He wants to entertain people, make people happy, and share his vision and dreams with the world. He wants what every other human wants, really. He just wants to fulfill his dreams and visions, and be successful and happy. And Franco, Franco, Rogen and their cast and crew on “The Disaster Artist” understand this, and, again, that heartfelt understanding fuels a consistent underlying heart and human caring that lifts, propels and carries “The Disaster Artist” forward. Yes, they are making a movie that makes fun of the making of a movie that isn’t that good, but one can’t make such a movie with too much of a mean or nasty streak—otherwise, the filmmakers risk coming across as snooty, snobby or holier-than-thou.
And anyone who’s ever working in any field—not just entertainment, but any field—has to understand that everyone—even the greatest of the greats—has to start somewhere, even at the bottom. Everyone—even those born into silver-spoon or blue-blood business, political or entertainment or sports or whatever-field families—has to start at the bottom. In other words, everyone in every field starts out like Tommy Wiseau—hungry, eager, stubborn, hard-working, working to prove themselves, working to establish themselves in their respective fields, working to—once again—fulfill those dreams and visions. That’s everyone on this planet. At some time, Franco, Franco, Rogen and everyone else working on “The Disaster Artist” were like Tommy Wiseau—taking acting classes, auditioning, getting rejected and turned out, getting yelled at, being turned away, even being made fun of. Each and every person on this planet goes through all of that—just like Tommy Wiseau.
So, on that brilliant, wonderful, epiphany level, “The Disaster Artist” intelligently and even intellectually transcends its own brilliance—much like “The Room” transcended its own awfulness—and becomes so much more than just a hilarious, fun, entertaining and hilariously funny comedy about the making of a bad movie, and actually becomes an important—yes, the best comedies do say something important at their core—statement about perseverance, endurance, pursuing your dreams and visions, sticking to your guns, courage, guts, hard work, getting up after falling down—and, most importantly, friendship and love. And what’s more important in life than friendship and love? In real life, Greg Sestero, despite seeing some actually successful aspects in acting in his own life and a possible rise through the ranks and muck of Hollywood to genuine work, knows during the making of “The Room” that, despite whatever may happen, he needs to stick with Wiseau, no matter what the consequences, and he needs to continue helping and supporting Wiseau. Yes, Sestero and Wiseau do have their arguments, fights, disagreements and even estrangements—but somewhere, somehow, along the line, they end up working together, helping each other and, again, somehow mysteriously understanding each other. The relationship between Sestero and Wiseau—in real life and in the dramatization portrayed in “The Disaster Artist” is a bromance for the ages and the history—two men platonically, professionally and—mysteriously—connecting and remaining friends and cohorts amidst the often-insane, cut-throat and idiotic wilds and jungles and mean streets of Hollywood, Los Angeles, the film industry and life itself. To see Sestero and Wiseau connect, disconnect and re-connect in “The Disaster Artist” is to actually see the intricacies of actual friendship among two people. And although “The Disaster Artist” is a hilarious comedy, some level of human connectivity, caring, kindness and understanding exists in the movie to make sure people realize that there are real people involved in this real comedy.
Thus, Franco and Rogen—with the help of Sestero’s book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made,” which was co-written by Tom Bissell—achieve that great achievement in classic comedies: not only do they make a great funny film, but they make a great funny film with a heart, a point, a lesson and message. And they also have Tommy Wiseau to thank, of course.
And what of Tommy Wiseau? To this day, he remains mysterious. Interviews and appearances with Wiseau tend to show some hit-or-miss instances of clarity and insight into his twisted vision of movies, people, creativity, storytelling and life—and “The Room”—but some interviews and statements concurrently tend to add to the enduring mystery that is Tommy Wiseau. Some of his statements make sense, and some, well, are, shall we say politely, eccentric. But, whilst people try to ponder and analyze Tommy Wiseau, perhaps the entire exercise is demonstrating yet another higher-level intellectually lesson in life: Not all people are the same, not all people see things the same way, not all people approach things the way you want them to approach things, and not all people are easily understood. Tommy Wiseau is a puzzle inside a mystery inside an enigma—and, you know what, so what? What’s wrong with that? Why can’t some people be puzzles, enigmas and mysteries? Maybe such folks can add something or some things to life that’s not provided by the ordinary and the obvious and the every day. Perhaps the world needs more puzzling, enigmatic—and mysterious—people like Tommy Wiseau.
And there’s yet another lesson: Perhaps if the world had more Tommy Wiseaus, we’d have more movies like “The Room” and, thus, in this ever-crazy, ever-changing world that we live in, perhaps we’d have more flat-out funny movies like “The Disaster Artist.”
So, as Sestero told Tommy Wiseau at the premiere showing of “The Room,” and we’re paraphrasing here: You may not have made the movie that you intended to make, and, yes, people are indeed laughing at your work, and this may not be quite what you wanted or expected to happen—but something, somehow, mysteriously, is happening nevertheless. People are liking “The Room.” They’re laughing at it—but they’re liking it. Some people and some films don’t even achieve that different level of success—whether their films are good or bad. Some films are seen by very few people, and they fade away. And that’s always very sad, of course. Many films—most films—don’t end up being surprise cult hits showing regularly at midnight screenings with howling audiences participating in audience participation rites. Most films don’t result in their directors/producers/writers/actors being invited to conventions, appearances, festivals, screenings and other events. Most films don’t end up having a book written about them. And most films don’t end up being made into an hilarious, fun, funny, entertaining—and mysterious—satirical comedy directed by James Franco, produced by Seth Rogen, and getting mostly positive reviews by critics and filmgoers across the country.
Most movies simply don’t have the success—intended, accidental, humorous or otherwise—of Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room.”
So, while one is thoroughly enjoying “The Disaster Artist,” remember the heart and soul of all of the Tommy Wiseaus and filmmakers and hard workers out there who wake up every morning striving, working hard, chasing their hopes and ideas and dreams and visions, and hoping to achieve some level of fame, fortune and success. And if you have a dream and vision in your own life, remember that people such as Tommy Wiseau did not ever give up on those hopes, dreams and visions. “The Disaster Artist” teaches us all to never give up, to keep on striving, to keep getting up after falling, to keep moving forward, to keep chasing your own dreams and visions–and that, perhaps, one day you too can achieve your own “The Room” or even your own “The Disaster Artist.”