Synopsis – When Greg Sestero, an aspiring film actor, meets the weird and mysterious Tommy Wiseau in an acting class, they form a unique friendship and travel to Hollywood to make their dreams come true.
My Take – For someone who watches films regularly, I am sure they have come across a film that was so bad, that they actually ended up enjoying, if not you have to see The Room (2003), a film which has earned the title of ‘The Citizen Kane of bad films’ rightfully so. Back in 2003, filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, fresh out of acting classes, made his debut in Hollywood with a little Indie known which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in, the film with a production budget of $6 million ended up earning just $1800 after two weeks of its public screening, mainly as word quickly spread about how this was one of the worst films ever made. However, behind the ton of flaws in production, acting, and script, there was without a doubt, something endearing about it, something that makes it ridiculously entertaining, a fact most agreed to it, resulting in the film gaining cult status over the years for its bizarre narrative and off the wall performance by its writer, producer, actor and director Tommy Wiseau. Personally, I think the film is a cinematic masterpiece, not because I was able to find entertainment in the constant mess of a film, but mainly as it takes a level of creativity to come up with a vision so unique that it just does not make sense whatsoever. That’s another reason why this film in question, which brings the real-life story of how the 2003 film got made, seemed so intriguing right from the time of its announcement. While walking into this one, I was under the impression that this would be like one of those silly but very enjoyable James Franco & Seth Rogen starring comedies who this time would be mocking Tommy Wiseau and his film all over, however, I’m pleased to say the film ended up exceeding my expectations, as the film not only serves as a memoir on the making of The Room by celebrating Wiseau, Greg Sestero, their passion, and their pursuit of a dream but is also unexpectedly one of the most engaging films about friendship.
Trust me, if you’ve ever watched The Room, or even just watched some of its scenes on YouTube; make sure you don’t miss this one. Based on the book of the same name by Greg Sestero, the story follows Greg (Dave Franco), a timid 19 year old trying to find his footing as a actor in 1998, San Francisco. Often criticized at his acting class for his wooden performance, Greg is left amazed when he watches his class mate, Tommy (James Franco) give out a fearless, bombastic and crazed performance in front of everybody. Soon striking a friendship, the two with the hopes of achieving their Hollywood dream of become film stars someday, pack up and move away to Los Angeles, into Tommy’s apartment. As they both get constantly denied by agencies & filmmakers, Tommy decides to make his own film which he will write, direct, star and finance with his bottomless account and offers Greg a supporting role. However, as production begins Greg finally begins to get noticed in the industry, all thanks to his girl friend, Amber (Alison Brie), a result of which Tommy starts feeling betrayed and begins to act chaotically on the set with his co-stars & crew members. While the whole crew questions the purpose of the story and the techniques Tommy uses, he keeps pumping money into the production, turning the finally product into something none of them ever expected. This film is a love letter from James Franco, who also directs, co-produces, and stars as Tommy, to The Room and all the unintentional laughter it inspires. Seeing James Franco do his take on ‘you’re tearing me apart Lisa!’ and the many other classics is a reminder of what makes watching The Room so hilarious in the first place. It gives you some insight into how this film caught lightening in a bottle in delivering a horrific product that people could still enjoy. The film is also a real account of how crazy the process of making The Room was and how Greg’s friendship with Tommy developed. I think you’ll get the most out of this film if you have seen The Room because with all the behind-the-scenes stories, it gives context to how the bizarre choices in the film happened. From Tommy’s new style of on camera love making to why they replicated the alley from outside of the studio to film in rather than the actual alley, you find out why. This is effective because you can’t help but ask yourself who thought making this film was a good idea? Sure, the film comments on how The Room bombed terribly; it had to acknowledge this. It comments on the utter lack of acting talent that Tommy and Greg possessed; it had to acknowledge this too, but it handles these details with such delicacy and care that I never felt that it was putting down the characters. Even when the world told them to quit, they never gave up on themselves or each other, the message is surprisingly inspiring. The biggest surprise of this film is they are so heartfelt when they really delve into Tommy’s psyche and his relationship with Greg. There’s a scene (with Bob Odenkirk) in a room full of acting students where they address that. But Tommy wants to be the hero so badly that you feel sorry for him. Although he isn’t always the good guy, he really went for it and that is admirable.
While the film crew sees him as a confusing weirdo, we know there’s something more, and despite his utter incompetence in directing and acting and all aspects of film-making, we still root him, and we still root for Greg, ever the supportive friend. Even as Tommy makes absurd and confounding choices that don’t make sense to Greg & anyone else, even when Tommy just gives a simple explanation that simply states ‘people do crazy things’, Greg still remains loyal. Here, director James Franco does well to instead underscore the film with this sense of inner turmoil. In less sensitive hands Tommy could easily become a cartoon target of mockery, but director James Franco gently invites you to consider his humanity, dreams and insecurities. Here, director James Franco never lets the film laugh at Tommy all the time, but he does still inject some empathy for Tommy’s bond with Greg, and when the world pointing at his incompetence. He’s not afraid to call out Tommy either for his questionable decisions on set and how he treated his crew. There was one great line of dialogue said that the actor believes that Tommy’s film is about “how the universe betrayed him”, and it actually opened my view of The Room. This gives the film a much stronger backbone, especially when dovetailed with his relationship to Greg. But I couldn’t help but find myself in that weird, murky and unsettling place again when exposed to ‘Planet Tommy’. So there’s as much tension as comedy – seeing the horrible conflict of encouragement/support vs. honesty, opportunities vs. loyalty, altruism vs. expected reciprocation, tradition vs. originality, believing in yourself vs. listening to criticism or, your own perception vs. everyone else’s. As for the downsides, there aren’t a whole bunch, perhaps the most significant is that this may not have a great deal of appeal beyond those who’ve watched and loved The Room already. I’m sure it would still function as a good film, but it might lack something for those who aren’t already indoctrinated into the cult of The Room. Seeing The Room first makes many of the inside jokes made in the film funnier and gives a clearer sense of how confounding and weird the film truly is. Also worth mentioning is how well the cast and crew recreated the look of the original film, especially the mannerisms of the actors, the set design, the lighting, the camera-work- it’s all perfect. The first thing that’s going to grab your attention is how James Franco captures most of the embodiment of Tommy Wiseau and is so magnetic with his awkward mannerisms, ideas that don’t make any sense, and of course his foreign accent. Admittedly I have never been a fan of James Franco‘s work, but here he does an outstanding job in the lead role, and I’m quite sure he is going to have a ball earning nominations in the upcoming awards season. Here, he is able to capture some of the bizarreness of Tommy, most memorably in a scene where Tommy prances around naked while bellowing orders at an enraged crew. Franco has finally found the role where he can be as weird as he likes, thanks to Tommy’s strange accent, black locks, missing millions, and unwavering narcissism. In comparison, Dave Franco had a less flashy role than his real life brother, but still does a good job as the more grounded, ‘straight man’ type character. Dave‘s a better actor than he’s given credit for and he’s both funny and sincere in this film. In supporting roles, Seth Rogen is really funny as Sandy, the one who calls Tommy out on his bizarre behavior the most, while Alison Brie is decent as Amber, Paul Scheer, Jacki Weaver and Ari Graynor are also both amusing and likeable. Zac Efron and Josh Hutcherson as the intense Chis-R and a completely miscast Denny are hilarious. Sharon Stone, Zoey Deutch, Judd Apatow and even Bryan Cranston are excellent in their cameos. On the whole, ‘The Disaster Artist’ is an insanely hilarious and genuinely moving account of how the worst film in history ever came into existence.
Directed – James Franco
Rated – R
Run Time – 104 minutes