Quick breakdown of the phenomenon that is The Room for those of you who are still out of the loop. In 2003 the movie The Room was released into the world. Written, directed by, produced by, financed by, and starring Tommy Wiseau the movie was hailed as the worst movie ever made. The Room was badly written, badly directed, badly edited, badly acted, and on top of that was largely nonsensical. Almost in every way a movie could not work, this movie doesn’t work. You probably couldn’t make a worse movie if you tried. And yet, it’s clear watching the movie that in many ways this is an earnest passion project for the creators of the movie (or at least the head creator, Wiseau). This movie was clearly meant to be Wiseau’s masterpiece, a movie that would go on to be an indy darling at film festivals across the globe, one that would take the film world by storm. But it’s not. It’s nowhere close.
Your mileage on “So bad it’s good” entertainment may vary, and if you’re not the kind of person that enjoys watching a movie that’s entertainment value comes from how bad it is, then The Room is just that, a bad movie. But for those who seek out bad movies, fans of Ed Wood and Troll 2, The Room is one of the few “bad movies” that lives up to the hype of not just how bad it is, but how enjoyable it is to watch despite it being an objectively awful film. The Room has gone on to become a popular movie for midnight showings, and part of the reason that it has achieved such a level of cult status is the amount of celebrities who have admitted to being fond of the movie. Many of the celebrities, (Kristen Bell, Kevin Smith, Jonah Hill, to name a few) who have become vocal champions of The Room kick off the movie with a few minutes of talking head interviews, talking about how regardless of the quality of the movie, the legacy of The Room and the cultural icon that the movie has become is something that deserves to be celebrated.
That’s really the feeling behind The Disaster Artist, the idea that the quality of the end product is irrelevant. It’s the fact that this movie has become such a big part of the landscape of movies over the past decade and a half, that its creation story is something worthy of being told. Told through the eyes of Greg Sestero (David Franco) a young aspiring actor who would go on to co-star in The Room with Tommy (played here by brother James Franco). Along with Greg we meet Tommy, and are startled, but somewhat intrigued by Tommy’s odd persona. Greg, who suffers from stage fright despite wanting to be an actor is drawn to Tommy who he sees as a fearless on the stage, and a friendship begins to grow between them, with Tommy and Greg promising to support each other’s dreams of making it in Hollywood.
While both Tommy and Greg attempt to break into the movie business, success seems to be slow going, especially for Tommy who’s general oddness gets him turned down again and again and again. But with Greg’s words of encouragement, Tommy decides to go around the whole system by funding and creating a movie for himself and and Greg, starring the two of them. Much to Greg’s surprise, this dream actually turns out to be a real possibility as Tommy seemingly has the means to make it happen. This kind of thing happens a lot around Tommy. Time and again, Tommy will be able to make something happen that feels like it would be impossible. When Greg wishes aloud that they could live in LA to be closer to everything, Tommy suggests that they move into his LA apartment, which apparently existed the whole time with it never occurred to Tommy that he should be living there. However, the source of Tommy’s seemingly endless funds is a mystery that Tommy continually dodges whenever it’s brought up along with other strongly guarded tidbits of information like where he’s from originally and what his real age is. While The Disaster Artist is about making a movie, what it’s really about is the strange, fascinating person that is Tommy Wiseau and what it’s like just to exist in his circle.
James Franco has to walk a tricky line bringing his interpretation of Tommy to life. Almost anyone who’s seen The Room has their own impression of Tommy’s big lines including “Oh, hi Mark!” and “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” But James Franco keeps his performance from veering into impression or outright parody territory. Franco is able to embody the person that is Tommy Wiseau. If you’ve just seen The Room it may feel like Franco is basing his performance on Tommy’s portrayal of Johnny in that movie, but looking at a few interviews of Tommy Wiseau himself reveals how eerily successful Franco is at capturing the man, and bringing him to life in this movie. You get the sense of how frustrating it must have been to try and work with and for Wiseau on the movie, but at the same time, it’s impossible to look away. Each time someone has to interact with Tommy it’s a fascinating scene all by itself as they go through the confusion, frustration, and sometimes bewildered acceptance at the fact that Tommy Wiseau may just be an impossible person to ever really figure out.
Not every movie deserves another movie detailing the process of making that movie. Far too often a movie will be big enough or prestigious enough that it feels like the making of story needs to be told, but at the end of the day, it’s the story of a process that happens hundreds of times every year to put out a movie. The production of The Room was a truly unique experience, and that’s not because it’s the production of a movie that ended up being bad. It’s because it was a production that would change on the whims of a man who is one of the more bizarre, yet fascinating people to try making a movie in the past twenty years. It’s the behind the scenes story of this particular movie which is interesting enough, but what elevates The Disaster Artist is it’s attempt at being a character study of someone who may just be impossible to study properly.
Tags: david franco, film, James Franco, movie, review, The Disaster Artist, The Room, tommy wiseau