Since its release in 2003, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room has gained cult status, becoming a regular favourite among late night audience there to bathe in the absurdity of the whole affair. The stilted awkward delivery of a baffling script combined with the eccentricities of Wiseau’s central character, and a sprawling narrative that drifts from one incomplete story to another, all make for joyful viewing. The film has since made back the staggering amount spent on production, rumoured to be close to six million. A Tennessee William’s inspired sh*t-show, The Room is a clumsy autobiographical drama for its director, writer and star who remains something of an enigma to this day. Following the brutal production of the film, Greg Sestero, co-star and close friend of Wiseau’s, shared his experiences of the birth, production and reception of the film in his book, The Disaster Artist. James Franco brings Sestero’s chaotic memoir to the screen in a thoroughly entertaining and expertly handled interpretation which features both Franco brothers in the central roles – Dave Franco as Greg and James as Wiseau – capturing all of the madness and sadness at once. Opening with an acting class and a particularly wooden performance of Waiting for Godot, The Disaster Artist captures Wiseau’s unique dedication and limited talent from its opening moments. Initially drawn to Wiseau’s conviction, Sestero starts up a close friendship with the unconventional acting student. From the outset, Sestero lets Tommy’s evident lies and secrets go unchallenged. The two friends fuel one another’s desire to succeed professionally and artistically, both bonding over their adoration for James Dean and the legacy he left behind.
The film’s second half focuses on the hellish production of the film itself and the outlandish behaviour and manner with which Wiseau commanded himself, his crew and his cast. I’ve always struggled with the sinister misogynistic undertones of The Room, and with James Franco’s history with pursuing young girls on Instagram still fresh in my mind, I ventured into The Disaster Artist with real trepidation. Thankfully the film captures Wiseau’s flaws as well as his quirks, without ever feeling spiteful or malicious. Franco’s performance is a career high for someone I struggle to ever warm to on screen. The siblings’ performances make for a strong brotherly chemistry between each protagonist and this remains at the centre of the film, regardless of the bedlam that surrounds it. Unlike The Room, here the plot flows nicely between scenarios, often questioning Wiseau’s behaviour but always celebrating his sheer vision and dedication to a craft he never managed to master. Told throughout his life that he was born to play the villain, Wiseau remained even more determined to be the hero. The Disaster Artist is a joyful celebration of film on film but also maintains a certain level of sorrow for Tommy whose mysterious past and concerning frivolity, when it comes to self-funding his masterpiece, remain a red flag for both those around him and we the audience. The film’s score carries the energetic plot and performances and heightens the insanity found on Wiseau’s self-defined reality – Tommy’s Planet. Don’t be fooled by the film’s comedy, (which is rich and consistent throughout) because outside of the laughs, The Disaster Artist is a celebration of film-making, of pure vision and of human endeavour. If at first you don’t succeed – take a leaf out of Tommy’s book; a book I imagine to be filled with contradiction and confusion but, simultaneously, pure ambition.
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