The Disaster Artist (2017)

The Room is a fascinating subject. Everything from its creation to its creator has been discussed in great depth from the time of its release in 2003—and we’re still talking about it. Now we have a movie, The Disaster Artist, which tells the tale of how it was made. It’s based on the book of the same name, co-written by Greg Sestero (played by Dave Franco in the movie), and follows both Sestero and The Room creator Tommy Wiseau (played by James Franco) as they move to Los Angeles and try to make it in the movie industry.

The film follows these two individuals for several years, starting in 1998 and ending in 2003, at the premiere of The Room. They meet in an acting class, become fast friends, and then move to L.A. to become professional actors—only to learn that the business isn’t exactly an easy one to break into. After some failures, they decide to make their own movie, at which point we get to see a bunch of the antics that happen on its set, as well as the rising tensions among several members of the cast and crew.

It’s a light movie, one that has some laughs, has some good emotional moments, and hopes to inspire viewers to both chase their dreams and embrace opportunism—even if it seems like the whole world is working against you and you don’t have the talent to achieve your goals. After all, Tommy Wiseau absolutely did not have that talent, and yet The Room became a cultural phenomenon anyway. If that isn’t an inspirational story, I don’t know what is. Or maybe it perpetuates delusion. One or the other.

In a lot of ways, James Franco is the perfect person to play Tommy Wiseau (and also serve as director). He’s a go-for-broke individual, throwing himself into his work with reckless abandon, and seemingly not caring what people think about it. The difference: James Franco is talented. While he may sometimes get off-track, when he’s on, he’s really on. And here, playing Wiseau, he’s really on. He nails the voice, the antics, and the confidence of Wiseau, and after a while you forget that it’s Franco on the screen and not Wiseau himself.

I’ll say this for The Disaster Artist: it’s a lot better than The Room.

The supporting cast is filled with a lot of talented, well-known actors, too, many of whom are only in the film for a couple of scenes. Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Josh Hutcherson, Ari Graynor, Zac Efron, Jacki Weaver, Hannibal Buress, Jason Mantzoukas, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Megan Mullally—they’re all in the movie, but only Rogen really gets much time to shine. A Judd Apatow cameo is more impactful than most of their combined influence on the film.

No, this is the Franco brothers’ production. James takes the showier role as Wiseau, while Dave takes the more grounded role in Sestero. Dave Franco isn’t a bad actor and he’s good here in what is, essentially, the lead role—but he’s overshadowed constantly and doesn’t get as much to do. His character is kind of bland, overall, and as the anchor of the film doesn’t exactly work. If there’s a problem with The Disaster Artist, it’s this. We only wind up caring what Wiseau is up to; our lead almost becomes inconsequential.

I’ll say this for The Disaster Artist: it’s a lot better than The Room. It might not be, however, more entertaining. The story behind the creation of The Room is interesting and the movie does a good job of detailing it. It’s light and shallow, but informative and many of the antics speak for themselves. It needs a more compelling lead, as a movie, to anchor it all, and more depth into its supporting cast would have been appreciated. Still, it’s got some laughs, it’s got some inspiration, and it’s got a great performance from James Franco.

Conclusion: The Disaster Artist is a good, solidly entertaining look at the creation of The Room.

Recommendation: If you like The Room or are curious about its creation, check out The Disaster Artist.

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