Review: The Disaster Artist
Director James Franco depicts the intriguing story of how the eccentric and mysterious Tommy Wiseau managed to realise his artistic vision, and present to the world the astonishingly terrible film The Room.
When a young, aspiring actor, Greg Sistero (Dave Franco) meets Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in acting class, he is in awe of his brimming self-confidence. Connected by their shared dream of stardom, the two strike up an unusual friendship and move to LA to pave their own way on Hollywood Boulevard. After a year without success through traditional routes, Tommy pulls out a wild card; writing and financing his own 6 million dollar movie, casting himself as the all-American lead, Johnny, and giving Greg the supporting role of Mark. The result: an infamously bizarre 100 minutes of film which has since amassed a cult following.
Firstly, familiarity with The Room greatly enhances the enjoyment of this film; The Disaster Artist is made with its cult following in mind, and for these fans, it is extremely entertaining. It is hilarious to see that the questions that circle around one’s mind whilst watching The Room are embodied in the cast and crew, voicing our incredulity. They too, are unable to answer the overriding question: ‘How did this happen?’ When listening to the cast parroting the oft-quoted ‘I did not hit her, I did not, oh hi Mark’, when Tommy nervously forgets his lines, the words take on a new level of hilarity with the realisation that Wiseau actually wrote and planned the scene, before its execution. Wisely, few recreated scenes are shown until the end, when the comedic build-up culminates at the premier of The Room, and Franco’s take-by-take version is unveiled, receiving a raucous reception by the audiences both on screen and in front of it.
However, The Disaster Artist is not simply a cruel protracted parody; the laughter provoked is not malicious derision, rather, a warm appreciation for the weird and wonderful phenomenon that is The Room. It is ultimately a character study of Wiseau. With his age, country of origin, and source of wealth unknown, Tommy Wiseau is a naturally curious character. Like many, Franco is intrigued by him, and his efforts to understand him are evident as he explores Tommy’s variable relationship with Greg. He depicts his strange dependence on his best friend, which is in turn possessive and resentful of his achievements. We see how his uncompromising and selfish behaviour is reflected too, in his tyrannical directing style. This darker depiction of Wiseau adds weight to the film, allaying any risk of it becoming an entertaining, yet inconsequential spoof.
Franco’s regard for Wiseau is reflected in his characterisation; whilst his slurred, ambiguous accent, broken speech, and -that- weird laugh is comically apt, he refrains from turning Tommy into a caricature. Fluctuating between deadpan one-liners, unreserved enthusiasm, and flippant arrogance, the audience can’t help but warm to him. The story provides depth to Wiseau: for all his eccentricity, Franco exposes a personable vulnerability in Tommy in his simple desire to be liked, accepted, and taken seriously.
At the close of the film, we are no closer to understanding Tommy’s Wiseau’s creative vision, but this mystery is what makes The Room so well-loved by its fans. We do, however, leave the cinema, with a new found empathy and warmth for its enigmatic director. James Franco achieves a film with heart and soul, as well as laughter.
Anna saw The Disaster Artist at the Showroom Cinema