How will a film based on the making of a cult-classic, semi well-known, “bad movie” work? Will it bring audiences? These were some of the questions dancing through the mind of this reviewer at a recent screening of The Disaster Artist.
The Disaster Artist is a cinematic love letter to Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and his now classic, “good/bad” movie, The Room. The story begins with Wiseau and friend Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) as acting students in San Francisco. The relationship is a hesitant one, but Sestero is drawn to the interesting and mysterious Wiseau. Together, the two men relocate to Los Angeles where they embark on life, love and making a “real Hollywood movie”. The film is based on Sestero’s book of the same name.
Particularly strong is James Franco’s portrayal of Tommy Wiseau. The filmmaker is known for his eccentricities, from his mannerisms, to his acting, and even his back story. While Franco zooms in on these various quirks and mines them for comedy gold, the performance never comes from a place of hostility or mocking. Rather, the portrayal comes from a place of love. While Wiseau is a colorful figure, Franco easily finds his humanity beneath the persona. You often feel for him, even through the web of aggression, lies and eccentricities. Despite all the people laughing at him, he’s still a man with feelings. Looking at the Best Actor hunt this year, Franco should definitely find himself with a nomination. While he likely won’t win, it is certainly entertaining to envision Tommy Wiseau beating Winston Churchill for the Best Actor prize at this year’s Academy Awards.
The Disaster Artist makes a smart decision in casting Dave Franco as Sestero. The young actor brings a stellar performance. Franco’s acting credits often pigeon hole him into a very specific type of role in films which often aren’t that great. However, the younger Franco absolutely kills it in The Disaster Artist. Franco very much the emotional center of the picture, and serves as a great entry point for the audience.
Furthermore, the casting of both Franco Brothers in this film grants the emotional narrative some added depth. The two men share an amazing chemistry, likely due to their familial bond. As such, the ups and downs of the Wiseau/Sestero relationship are completely believable. The primary relationship rises above the friend or even “bromance” level. Rather, these men feel like brothers. They may fight and go through struggles, but ultimately their bond feels real.
Where the film feels its biggest struggles is in the crafting of its female characters. There are a handful in the film, the infamous “Lisa” (Ari Graynor) and “Claudette” (Jacki Weaver) from The Room are perhaps the best known. The Disaster Artist also brings a fairly usual collection of girlfriends and mothers led by Alison Brie and Megan Mullally as well as comedic turns from Melanie Griffith and Sharon Stone.
While the later portrayals feel interesting and comedic, there is little noted depth to any of these women. Brie and Mullally serve as the disapproving female presence common in comedy films of this nature. They either wag a disapproving finger, or serve as the nag to break-up a bromance with the promise of sex. This isn’t a problem with the performances; rather, it results from a lack of script development geared towards these characters. This is most likely due to Sestero and Wiseau relationship being the primary narrative focus of the film.
As previously stated, The Disaster Artist is a love letter to The Room. The painstaking recreations of certain shots are fascinating to watch. Be sure to stay through the credits as the creative team showcases just how close their work appears when compared to the original film. The intricate research shows in the shooting, and the crew definitely deserves commendation for their accuracy.
Fans of The Room should definitely add this film to their must see list. Don’t miss it. Now, will those who haven’t seen The Room enjoy The Disaster Artist? That’s a tricky question. The Franco brothers are definitely strong, and there are a number of laugh out loud moments. Fans of either Franco should check out this movie as both men put forward career performances. Furthermore, some of the subject matter is so outlandish and entertaining that even those who haven’t seen the title film should enjoy themselves.
The Disaster Artist can be found in theaters around the country now.