“The Disaster Artist” is good art about bad art and if you’ve been in Hollywood, you’ve run into people like titular character. What culture vulture hasn’t? Either you leave and look for something better or sit around afterward and pick at the cadaver of unintentional comedy.
Tommy Wiseau is the mysterious writer, director, producer and lead actor of the cult classic “The Room.” A professor of film studies, Ross Morin, once called the movie “The ‘Citizen Kane’ of bad movies.”
In “The Room,” Wiseau plays Johnny, a successful banker who lives in San Francisco with Lisa (Juliette Danielle). Lisa and Johnny’s best friend, Mark (Greg Sestero), begin a love affair. Lisa begins to paint a false portrait of Johnny to her family even though they are supposed to be married soon. Johnny become suspicious of Lisa and eventually finds out about the affair and is so disturbed that he commits suicide. You will actually get to see parts of “The Room” at the end of “The Disaster Artist” in a way that validates all that comes before.
“The Disaster Artist” is about how Sestero (Dave Franco) met Wiseau (James Franco) and how “The Room” got made. Wiseau has money and that, along with his outrageous behavior is what draws Sestero to him. Sestero has problems opening up and emoting during acting class. Wiseau has problems controlling his impulses and “acts” in a manner that defies cultural norms even for an acting class. The two decides to move to Los Angeles where Wiseau happens to have an apartment that he hasn’t been using. Once there, they try to make it, but when they falter, they decide to make their own success.
As a theater critic who used to weekly make it out to small productions, I’ve witnessed the works of people like Wiseau, people with more money and determination than talent and too many yes-men and women surrounding them. At times, you can feel sad for them or even angry that you’ve wasted moments of your life watching self-indulgent works. This, however, it a good movie about a movie so bad that it is good in its badness.
There are some theater experiences that do not translate well to film such as camp or camp that celebrates bad, seriously dated or popular movies with more plot holes than Swiss cheese. A good movie about a bad movie might be one of those things, but like good theatrical experiences, “The Disaster Artist” is best experienced with an audience or at least a group of friends.
James Franco directs and, along with a few other produces, but the screenplay is by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (“(500) Days of Summer” and “The Fault in Our Stars”) based on Sestero and Tom Bissell’s book, “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside ‘The Room,’ the Greatest Bad Film Ever Made.” The real Sestero and Wiseau appear in the film and other cameos include Bryan Cranston, Zach Braff and JJ Abrams.
In case you haven’t seen “The Room” and can’t quite believe it is as bad (and actually worse) than the movie suggests, director James Franco provides a split screen comparison of scenes from his movie and the real deal.
“The Disaster Artist” Sunday, 12 November 2017 gala screening at AFI FEST 2017 and opens in the US on 1 December 2017.