In 2003, an independent movie arrived called The Room. It told the melodramatic story of a love triangle and was directed and produced by its lead star Tommy Wiseau. The film ended up labeled as the worst movie ever made. Since that time, Wiseau has watched his labor of love become a cult classic, screened at midnight screenings across the world.
In 2013, actor Greg Sestero wrote a memoir called The Disaster Artist, retelling the making of The Room and working with the very eccentric Tommy Wiseau. After winning the Best Non-Fiction award at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards, Seth Rogen optioned the rights to make the book into a movie. What resulted was this film, directed by and starring James Franco.
The Disaster Artist pulls the story on the book by Sestero, but it also took liberties with the actual events. Some of the changes made included the relationship between Wiseau and Sestero leading them to Los Angeles, but the basis for this movie is not just about Tommy Wiseau but about a person realizing their dreams. James Franco was the perfect person to direct this film.
Franco is a Hollywood outsider. He starred in blockbuster movies with a vast filmography, but he is also someone who took some crazy risks over his career. He appeared on the soap opera General Hospital as a strange and eccentric character named Franco, went back to school in New York years after he broke out in Hollywood to study poetry, and has made interesting experimental indie films.
Watching James Franco’s performance in The Disaster Artist seems strange at first, but as the post-credit scenes show, his dialect and mannerisms are a perfect match for the original Tommy Wiseau. This movie is pure performance art by James Franco and it ended up as one of the best films of 2017.
Much like Wiseau in The Room, James Franco is the star-director of The Disaster Artist, and he called upon his brother Dave Franco to star as Greg Sestero in the movie. While it is not entirely accurate when compared to the real story, the film has Steve and Tommy meet in an acting class where the latter does a very bizarre rendition of Marlon Brando’s performance from A Streetcar Named Desire. While it received mocking laughs from his classmates, as well as a lecture by teacher Jean Shelton, it impressed Steve due to the fearlessness Tommy showed.
Wanting to break out of his shell, Steve approaches Tommy and asks to work with him so he can learn how to be fearless as well. The two develop a strange relationship, and Tommy convinces Steve to move to Los Angeles with him to try to catch a break in Hollywood. Steve gets an agent almost immediately but can’t seem to land any roles while no one will touch Tommy due to his strange accent and over-dramatic acting. That is when Tommy decides they should shoot a movie of their own, and since Tommy has a “bottomless” bank account, he can finance it himself.
The Disaster Artist starts off a little awkwardly. It seems to meander from one situation to the next. It almost lost me early on, but something along the way not only sucked me back in but ended as one of the best movies of 2017. Maybe a lot of it has to do with my love of filmmaking, which the entire middle of the film focuses on, but there was also something touching about the story of Tommy Wiseau.
James Franco portrays Wiseau as a jerk, someone who pushes people around and refuses to let anyone other than Steve get close to him. Even with Steve, Wiseau lies about everything, including where he is from, how he got rich and how his age – always claiming that he is the same age as Steve even though he is clearly much older. It was enough to make people despise Wiseau, but Franco added something to the role that makes him strangely alluring, and it is impossible to hate the man entirely.
It is fascinating to watch the making of The Room because Wiseau does just about everything wrong, alienating almost his entire crew, but somehow finishing the movie anyway. He even fractures his relationship with Steve by the end of the shoot. However, The Disaster Artist sets up things perfect so when the final screening of The Room takes place, it hits home, and The Disaster Artist is a feel-good story with the most unlikely of heroes.
James Franco is very over-the-top in his performance, but anyone who has seen Tommy Wiseau knows it is accurate. Dave Franco is perfect as the wide-eyed Steve, struggling to make his dreams come true. The supporting cast is also solid, with Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver and Alison Brie all great. There are also almost unrecognizable performances by names like Zac Efron, Sharon Stone and Melanie Griffith.
The movie itself started out with a list of people talking about the legacy of The Room, with names like Judd Apatow, Kevin Smith, JJ Abrams, Kristen Bell talking about the cult classic. With that setup, The Disaster Artist could have demeaned the two filmmakers and the movie, but instead resulted in a loving look at achieving a lifelong dream – even though it ended up as the worst movie ever made. No one can take that away from Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero, and James Franco immortalized their dreams in this film, one of the best of 2017.