Overview: The true story behind the making of The Room and the bizarre friendship held between its two principal actors, Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero. A24; 2017; Rated R; 104 minutes.
James Dean and Marlon Brando: The circumstances that gave birth to The Room border on the unbelievable. Written and directed by its enigmatic leading man, Tommy Wiseau, the film was independently funded by him to the tune of $6 million. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Wiseau’s magnum opus doesn’t look like a $6 million motion picture. Far from it, The Room is marked by a peculiar narrative and lacks any cohesive logic. Each successive scene builds upon a singular worldview that feels familiar only if the viewer is aware of Wiseau’s equally peculiar personal history and artistic obsessions.
Enraptured by the storied careers of James Dean and Marlon Brando, Wiseau spends much of his time in The Room tactlessly conjuring his very best impressions of the two formerly cited Hollywood icons. Yet at the same time that Wiseau is trying to ape the traditions of his cinematic forebears, his own ineptitude shines forth more brightly than anything else on screen. The extent to which his own tortured personal history remains shrouded in mystery, evasiveness, and dishonesty only serve to further attract newcomers to his cult-hit directorial debut. The kind of attention that Wiseau’s character frequently excites in an audience is often tied to the absurdity of his profile, and in The Disaster Artist this pattern of superficially misunderstanding Wiseau’s subtle appeal continues.
James Franco and Tommy Wiseau: On paper, casting James Franco to play the role of Tommy Wiseau is commercially appealing. Franco is more handsome than Wiseau, and having Franco featured prominently on the film’s posters and in its trailers positions the movie for a wider appeal than just die hard fans of The Room. And by and large, Franco does a remarkable job playing the part of Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist. Fans of the beloved cult icon will no doubt be thrilled to follow along as Franco and company recast and reshoot several scenes and sequences from The Room nearly shot-for-shot. And that’s where the appeal of The Disaster Artist ends.
Based in part on the non-fiction book co-written by The Room co-star Greg Sestero and journalist Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist presents itself as the cinematic retelling of the making of one of the best worst movies ever made. But instead of delving into Tommy Wiseau’s convoluted biography, his hostile relationship with women, or his envious attraction to Sestero, The Disaster Artist is content to let its all-star cast of comic actors exchange well-worn lines from The Room with one another verbatim. Instead of exploring the winding narrative that Sestero lays out in his spellbinding memoir, The Disaster Artist plays it safe while opting to cast Wiseau as a relatively harmless eccentric bit player from central casting.
Overall: Unlike The Room, the appeal of The Disaster Artist is easy to explain. Borrowing heavily from the formerly mentioned film’s popular reputation as a “so bad it’s good movie,” The Disaster Artist is made for the kind of person who enjoys watching The Room to laugh at its grotesque star. But for anyone who has read the book upon which Franco’s film is loosely based, it’s disappointing to watch a movie that insists on continuing to distill Wiseau down to a studio comedy caricature.
Featured Image: A24