You can’t improve on perfection. So why did they make The Disaster Artist, the true story of the making of The Room? Tommy Wiseau’s masterpiece, one of the most confounding pictures ever committed to film and digital, is a truly singular achievement. The companion book, upon which this film is based, fills in all of the gaps. But if you want to see a dramatisation of the… process… you’ve got The Disaster Artist. If you didn’t know it was true, and if you’ve never seen The Room, there’s no way you’d ever be able to believe it.
In 1998, aspiring young actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) meets Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), a mysterious man with deep pockets. Tommy moves the two of them to Hollywood, where they struggle to break into the industry, until they have a fateful idea: they could make their own movie. Tommy writes The Room, and he brings his vision to the screen, even if he creates a monster (or monsters) in the process.
Tommy Wiseau is such a singular person that if you’re unfamiliar with the man or his work, you might mistake James Franco’s performance as the worst of his career. Franco’s Wiseau is in fact forensically accurate. No one can place Wiseau’s accent (“the Big Easy”), and he may as well be an alien. Franco doesn’t quite capture the sweetness of Wiseau, and shows only a tiny amount of his vulnerability, but this is a big role played bigly. Dave Franco, in his first time sharing a movie with his brother, is the perfect foil — even if Sestero’s facial hair doesn’t entirely suit him, but it’s part of both verisimilitude and an actual plot point.
The script, by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (Our Souls At Night), latches onto the bizarre and inexplicable nature of the proceedings (“Stellaaaaaa!”), all of which is verifiable by the people who were there at this unique moment in history. In all likelihood, Wiseau probably was a monster at times, but there is definitely some conflict inserted to force a wedge between the friends so that the film can have more of a traditionally dramatic arc. In this case, the truth is interesting enough that it doesn’t require any embellishment.
James Franco performs double duty as both lead actor and director. As in many of his films, he draws on his extensive network of friends. The gang’s all here, including producer Seth Rogen (Bad Neighbours 2), and Franco has clearly massaged them into a cohesive unit. Despite the cliché, The Disaster Artist is a labour of love from people clearly obsessed with a 14-year-old film that refuses to die. A lot goes into ensuring the accuracy of the piece, to the extent that the film ends with side by side comparisons between the two versions of The Room. The main purpose this serves is to make you just want to relive The Room itself, but for the uninitiated, it proves that the film exists.
The Disaster Artist is a movie that supplements an excellent film and an entertaining book while not quite hitting either’s mark, but it is entertaining. Unlike The Room itself, you can see exactly where it came from, and there’s nothing baffling about that; the rewards spring from the inherent comedy of the concept and the infectious enthusiasm that everyone has brought to the project. More than anything, though, The Disaster Artist proves that even when you try to explain something that has extensive documentation attached to it, it can’t be understood, only experienced.
The Disaster Artist opened in Australian cinemas on November 30, 2015.
Directed by: James Franco.
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen and Alison Brie.