This week I was lucky enough to receive a set of advanced preview tickets to the new James Franco film ‘The Disaster Artist’ about two weeks before its’ general release in the UK. Directed, Produced by and starring Franco, the film chronicles the true story of filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, as he sets out to become a major Hollywood star and launch his career by making his own motion picture; ‘The Room’. ‘The Room’ was released in 2003 for a budget of $6,000,000 and initially made less than $2000 at the box office. It has a reputation for being the worst film ever made, often called the ‘Citizen Kane of bad movies’, and as a result of this legacy has been screened in cities around the country, often considered to be an event movie because of this. As of 2017, The Room has made back its production budget, and thus gained a cult following.
There are many debates as to Wiseau’s intentions when creating ‘The Room’, as he’s since attempted to claim that its distinct lack of quality was intentional so as to create a wacky comedy. ‘The Disaster Artist’ is based on the autobiographical book by the film’s star Greg Seresto, and so it provides an interesting examination of Wiseau’s style and techniques as a filmmaker. He’s an interesting character, and one that Franco skillfully brings to life with passion. Tommy has spent the last twenty years insisting that he’s from New Orleans, although speaks with a strong eastern European accent. There’s also the fact that he spent $6,000,000 of his own money on producing the film, and has never revealed the source of his finance. The film repeatedly makes fun of him for these facts and it isn’t hard to feel sympathetic when the stress of filmmaking takes its toll and he loses the affection of nearly everyone in his life.
The film begins as Tommy meets Greg Seresto (played by James’ brother Dave Franco) at an acting class in San Francisco. The duo form a plan to move to Hollywood and become stars, and it’s the relationship between the pair that forms Disaster Artist’s heart. This is the first time that the Franco brothers have starred opposite one another, and the brotherly relationship of Seresto and Wiseau makes this casting more than just a gimmick. The characters move to LA together (in a flat conveniently owned by Tommy), and it’s clear that Greg is far more destined to be a star than his friend. The film is ultimately a character study of these two men, and tensions begin to rise as they begin production on The Room. Wiseau’s lack of talent becomes far too clear, and it’s left for Greg to manage the frustration of the crew. What’s worse, is that Greg is frequently provided with ways to escape this sinking ship (one character even compares this film to the titanic), however Tommy’s emotionally manipulative demeanor keeps a tight grip over the entire production.
This is by far the best performance I’ve ever seen from either Franco brother, and James’ directing reaches a pinnacle here too. He recreates key moments from the original film well, and the setting of a film set allows him to play with unconventional shot combinations to keep you feeling a part of their world. The obviously highlight of the film is of course the brilliantly hilarious script that keeps you constantly laughing out loud, with some jokes completely catching me off guard. There’s a series of runing gags throughout the movie that never feel overdone, and the string of celebrity cameos spread throughout the film are perfectly curated. Seeing Bryan Cranston in 2017 cameo as 2003 Bryan Cranston is a treat, and his appearance makes for one of my favourite jokes in the film.
Were this a fictional film, I might criticize the wackiest elements of The Disaster Artist’s plot. Try as it might to follow up what has happened in the years since the film, there are still parts of this story left untold. Franco is being discussed as a potential oscar nominee for his performance, and I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to see this come to fruition. This true story adaptation has a narrative stronger than any Hollywood blockbuster I’ve seen in 2017, and whilst the film’s jokes are probably funnier if you’ve seen The Room, but I’d strongly recommend that you check it out regardless. Everyone who loves film needs to have seen The Room, and I’m glad that The Disaster Artist is just as much a must see as the film it takes so much joy in tearing apart.