How does an outlandish film like The Room come into existence? That’s what The Disaster Artist wants to illuminate. It tells the story of two friends, aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) and enigmatic egoist Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). As they struggle to make it in Hollywood, they decide to make their own movie.
And thus begins the insane story behind one of the essential pieces of outsider cinema in history.
Praise, Not Parody
It’s important to realize that a lot of love for The Room comes from the ironic appreciation of its absurd nature. It was worrisome that The Disaster Artist would take the same route. Thankfully, the movie has nothing but love and affection for its characters and story.
Dave Franco portrays Greg as a genuinely nice but naive guy who wants nothing more than to live the quintessential Hollywood dream. When he crosses paths with James Franco’s Tommy, the two strike up a friendship that feels completely believable and sweet. The chemistry between Greg and Tommy is palpable and carries the film throughout the entire running time.
And it’s never at the expense of its (admittedly weird) focal point: Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau is an unsolvable mystery of a character — no one knows his age, where he’s from, or how he’s able to fund all of his ventures — but the story is able to center in on what is important to Tommy’s own sense of self. He wants to be a star and fight against a system that doesn’t allow for outsiders like him.
The fact that The Disaster Artist is able to find the pathos and the relatable qualities in a cipher like Wiseau is miraculous. And James Franco’s performance is one for the books. He’s not creating a caricature of Wiseau. This is a transformative role that respects and admires the subject its presenting. It’s one of the best things you’ll see on the screen in 2017.
Stranger Than Fiction
And if you haven’t seen The Room, don’t worry. The film gives you plenty of context for this cinematic abnormality. And as wacky as The Room is, it’s not nearly as bonkers as the story behind its creation.
The Disaster Artist captures that journey with startling accuracy and reverence. The film is based on Greg Sestero’s book of the same name, but the picture goes above and beyond by recreating elements of The Room with startling veracity. It’s so exhaustive that the film even has a section devoted to comparing the original film to the recreations. It’s mesmerizing.
Plus, this movie is relentlessly funny. The humor is nearly nonstop but it magically never derails the emotional arc of the two leads. As ridiculous as things get — and boy, do they get CRAZY — we still care for Tommy and Greg. We want them to succeed, even as their friendship is brought to the brink by Tommy’s own faults.
If I had one significant complaint, it’s that a large chunk of the story gets skipped over. MINOR SPOILER AHEAD. We don’t see any of the post-production processes for the film. The story jumps from the end of Greg’s involvement with The Room to the premiere event.
As nutso as the making of The Room was, it would have been fascinating to see how all these elements were glued together to make the movie. The film justifies it by sticking with Greg’s point-of-view but it’s still an element of the story that would be great to get a glimpse at.
Is The Disaster Artist Good?
Despite my one critique, it’s impossible not to fall in love with The Disaster Artist. It’s the Ed Wood of a new generation of film fans. It overflows with optimism and support for those who do whatever it takes to make their dreams come true. And it’s a beautiful, hilarious, and never phony examination of the kind of delightful weirdos that make movies.
The Disaster Artist is one of the necessary films of 2017. It’s Tommy’s planet. We just live on it.