The Disaster Artist, directed by James Franco and based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, chronicles the production of what may possibly be the most notoriously bad film to ever see the light of day, The Room (2003). The film follows the mysterious Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and his friend Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) through their trials and tribulations in Hollywood that eventually lead to the production of a movie so bad that it is culturally revered.
The film opens with real-life comedy greats and Hollywood bigshots (Kevin Smith, Adam Scott, Danny McBride, J.J. Abrams, and Kristen Bell to name a few) giving praise to the original film, lauding its uncharacteristic and extremely comical, if not sad, rise to such a prominent level of cultural significance. The film then flashes to San Francisco in 1998, where Greg Sestero is failing miserably on stage at an acting class. After being critiqued and berated for his lack of passion and talent by his teacher (Melanie Griffith), the enigmatic Wiseau approaches the stage for his turn to act. After an extremely uncomfortable, unintelligible yet fearless rendition of the “Stella” scene from A Streetcar Named Desire, Sestero realizes that Wiseau has the precise reckless abandon that he himself needs to succeed. When Sestero befriends Wiseau and they realize they both share a desire to be Hollywood stars, Wiseau insists that Sestero join him to live in his L.A. apartment and pursue the endeavor together, with little plan or system.
With Sestero having mixed success getting an agent (Sharon Stone) and auditions as well as a girlfriend, Amber (Alison Brie), Wisteau grows more jealous and erratic in their interactions. Channeling his anger into an “artistic” outlet, Tommy pens the screenplay for The Room. After making Sestero read the entire screenplay in one sitting, he insists that Greg play the second lead in the film and that he would be entirely funding the project.
Once the process of making the movie commences, the audience is introduced to the cast and crew of The Room, which is the best part of the movie. The crewmembers are great, and include Seth Rogan as script supervisor Sandy, Paul Scheer as a Raphael, a disgruntled production assistant, and Hannibal Burress and Jason Mantzoukas (The League) as the owners of the lot on which the movie is filmed, and make the absurdity of the entire production more tangible. The actors are also very believable and interesting, with an excellent performance by Zac Efron as Dan, an actor who plays the over-the-top intense “Chris R.”
Franco’s Wiseau is a dead-on impersonation, and he is virtually unrecognizable in the role. His undecipherable accent is accurate for his character, who has become famous for having an unknown background. Franco emits the desire of Wiseau to succeed with an obviously less-than-ideal set of skills. His charisma and drive throughout the movie make the character likeable and at times sympathetic, and he nails many of the iconic lines that Tommy delivers in the original film.
The cinematography of the film is very well done, and gives a very nostalgic nod to the early 2000s with the music, scenery, and style. While the portion of the movie in which they are filming The Room is almost documentary-style, it definitely helps to highlight the insanity of the production in a comedic way. At the end of the film, the side-by-side reels from The Disaster Artist juxtaposed with the respective scenes from The Room are uncanny and extremely entertaining.
The Disaster Artist is definitely an industry film, and gives many winks to Hollywood in general. The celebrity cameos are almost constant, and they deliver a great punch to the movie. The movie could be characterized as a biography, comedy, drama, buddy film, and a rise to success movie, and hits the nail on the head on every level. This film about Tommy Wiseau will be a huge success, but this time because it is actually excellent.