So I had the good fortune of watching a “work-in-progress” cut of James Franco’s latest directorial The Disaster Artist at SXSW this past March. I had originally planned to review this odd, quirky tale of a condemned artist, but I found myself having troubles judging this film critically, more to be explained why later. The Disaster Artist is a comedy-biopic blend focusing on Tommy Wiseau during the creation of his “cult hit,” The Room. The movie takes much of its focus from Tommy’s best friend Greg Sestoro’s book of the same name. Greg is actually played by James Franco’s younger brother Dave, and I’m sure you’ve heard of James’s devoted portrayal of Tommy by now. He even directed film in character as Tommy. Prior to my screening I had concerns over the treatment of Tommy Wiseau; although I love James Franco wholeheartedly I had worries about the idea of teasing an artist who has been ridiculed his entire career for his sole project. However, much to my surprise Tommy Wiseau was actually in attendance for the screening. Just before the movie started James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Dave Franco introduced the movie and proclaimed that they actually hold a deep love for Wiseau’s film. James Franco actually admitted to personally asking Tommy Wiseau for his blessing. This immediately began to ease my concerns, and once the film started the idolization of Tommy Wiseau by the Franco brothers and Seth Rogen became very apparent. ‘The Disaster Artist’ is a love-letter to Tommy Wiseau and his “worst film of all time” and the vulnerability of being an endearing artist.
So with the news that A24 has picked up the film I’ve decided to give a nice idea as to what the film is and why you should see it! The main reason being I saw the same concerns I had over the treatment of Tommy raised by others with the release of this A24 distributor news. I want to relieve those stresses. A24 has become a highly praised distributor as of recent years, especially with their masterpiece Moonlight recently bringing home the Best Picture Oscar few months ago. Their films usually hold a touch of innovative and original ideas, and The Disaster Artist is surely a unique project. First and foremost I would like to say, The Disaster Artist isn’t exactly always trying to be a critically engaging film. As stated earlier, this is a love-letter to ‘The Room’ and Tommy, and it is riddled with references, homages, and trivial facts about the creation of the film. It’s an entirely meta movie that wants to demonstrate exactly who Tommy Wiseau is.
This movie is proof that although the original film was ripped to shreds critically, it does actually have a fan base of people who love it. Many of those in attendance were super fans of Tommy, and the announcement of his presence garnered an uproar of an applause. We even had the privilege of watching The Room with Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestoro, and the team behind The Disaster Artist after its screening. Sure, James Franco’s portrayal of Tommy is very comedic and often foolish, but he wanted to capture the unique character that is Tommy Wiseau. James brought many positive lights to Tommy as well, such as that although Tommy may have not created a “great” film, he put himself and his dreams out there and still found a following. The vulnerability of being an artist is reflected in this joyous comedy. Although some feel that Dave Franco as Greg Sestoro is a miscast, I found that it worked in its own way at showing the relationship between the two. Tommy not only fully believes in himself (even if almost foolishly), he believes in Greg as well. Actually, Tommy may have been the only person to fully support Greg in his dream of being an actor. These two are the heart of the film; they’re two friends who decided to simply get up and follow their dreams. Their journey is definitely naive, but part of me has no choice but to admire their dedication. At the same time, we see what a chaotic state of production the original film went through. It’s obvious that the two were newcomers to the industry and yes, they had no idea what they were doing. But this just adds to the nutcase nature of the film. There’s moments of the original film where you just say, “what the fuck is going on?” And this applies to witnessing the production of the film as well. Much of this is quite honestly akin to Tommy, he proves to be a very emotional man who works using his emotions first, whatever they are at a given time.
There are plenty of laughs supplied in the film, even for those who aren’t exactly “in” on the meta. Plenty of audience members had never even heard of The Room (including Dorian) and they still found it be quite entertaining. However, I do advise watching the movie beforehand, as it’ll add to the experience. Fair warning, The Room is obviously not the best movie out there, but it’s ridiculous in its own way and many find themselves blown away at how such a film was even made (hence James Franco’s decision to direct a movie based on such wonder). Seeing as this is a Franco/Rogen movie, it’s filled with cameos everywhere. Do yourself a favor and do NOT go through the IMBd cast credits as the release edges closer. Each cameo is a fun little surprise in its own right. It follows the same vein as the surprise cameos in ‘This is the End’, one of my favorite comedies.
All in all, The Disaster Artist is a piece on appreciating a film that was shunned by many and loved by others. It brings heart to a side of Tommy Wiseau and his fellow filmmakers that is not talked about enough, and accurately demonstrates the vulnerability of being an artist, no matter how anyone responds to your work. I don’t want to give much away for the movie, but I seriously recommend taking the trip to the theater to see it. It’s fun, it’s hilarious, and you’ll witness the unique story of a unique story being told.
The Disaster Artist will have a limited release on December 1, 2017 and a wider release on December 8, 2017.