AFF Review: James Franco IS Tommy Wiseau in 'The Disaster Artist'
by Alex Billington
October 31, 2017
There's nothing like The Room, right? A film so bad it's so good. The Disaster Artist is an attempt to tell the story about the making of Tommy Wiseau's The Room, and the friendship behind it, and their dream to become famous, and make a movie that everyone would love. Directed by and starring James Franco, this film is much more of an homage to the cult classic that is The Room, as well as a nod to the passion it takes to make something so terrible. To dream so big and yet fail so spectacularly, but still embrace that failure, and revel in the joy it (somehow) brings to some people. It's not an outright comedy, more of a drama with funny scenes, that also perfectly recreates The Room and pays tribute to the one-and-only Tommy Wiseau.
Full disclosure: I have never actually seen The Room, so I approached this film from that angle. I've heard all about it, I know about it, I just have never actually seen it (there's something that just bothers me about watching a very bad film to laugh at it). So, for me, watching The Disaster Artist was not only learning the story behind the story, but also getting a first look at some of the actual moments from The Room and how they were conceived. Suffice it to say, I now really want to see The Room, but perhaps only as a double back-to-back feature with this film - because they work so harmoniously together and it allows me to appreciate what actually happened here, what was really going on with this film (and why it is what it is). There's an understanding that The Disaster Artist provides beyond the "making of", a context to it being a failure of the dream of Tommy Wiseau, and his wild, crazy attempt to just make a film on his own without any experience.
The Disaster Artist has a helluva ensemble cast. James Franco is unbelievably perfect as Tommy Wiseau, and his brother Dave Franco is an endearing Greg Sestero, but it's all the people around them that make this film so special. There are excellent roles played by Seth Rogen, Jackie Weaver, Nathan Fielder, Josh Hutcherson, Alison Brie, Zac Efron, Eliza Coupe, Sharon Stone, Dylan Minnette, Melanie Griffith, Hannibal Buress, Paul Scheer, Judd Apatow, Ari Graynor, Charlyne Yi, and so many more. There's appearances by people playing themselves, including J.J. Abrams, Bryan Cranston, Adam Scott, Kristen Bell, Lizzy Caplan, and a few others. It seems all of these people gave their time to this film because they understand what it is, and appreciate The Room's cult status. Part of the enjoyment of watching The Disaster Artist is seeing these performances and appearances because they're all seamlessly worked into the movie, in just the right way.
The odd thing for me about The Disaster Artist is that I didn't laugh that much. Maybe it's just me, watching people say and do stupid things isn't really that funny to me, but the movie itself isn't a non-stop comedy. There's a good balance of humor and drama, because The Disaster Artist is actually a story about Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero becoming friends. It's actually quite sweet to see this, because it shows that as weird as Wiseau may be, Sestero saw something in him that and the two connected. It's basically all about the power of friends, and how that power can fuel encouragement to follow your dreams. It is also a love letter to being weird as fuck, and how important it is to stay true to your weirdness, no matter what that is.
To top it off, James Franco's performance as Tommy Wiseau is remarkable on so many levels. He deserves all the acclaim and accolades, because this performance is perfect. He really, truly becomes Wiseau, and never once breaks character or even so much as shows a tiny crack. (Word is Franco stayed in character on set, which makes all of this performance even more impressive and iconic.) In addition to the story about Sestero and Wiseau's friendship, The Disaster Artist is a character study and Franco gives us all the depth and nuance we need to attempt to figure out who this guy is. Honestly, by the end I still couldn't figure him out, but it seems ambiguity is part of him. Franco's performance is so real that you almost feel bad laughing at him, because there are moments where it's possible to feel the shame and sadness he feels when things go wrong. Overall, the film is as intriguing as it is funny, and a perfect homage to the disaster that is The Room.