Don’t let anyone convince you that Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is essential viewing before seeing The Disaster Artist. James Franco’s latest directorial effort dives into a cult classic of midnight cinema. The Disaster Artist, aside from being one of 2017’s best films, is an accessible story of one of the strangest creations ever made. Within the movie, Franco loses himself in Wiseau’s eccentric quirks and fearless personality. The Disaster Artist isn’t just a story of how a bad movie got made. It’s a touching look at friendship and undying passion. It’s hilarious, heartfelt and undeniably entertaining from start to finish.
We first meet Wiseau writhing on stage doing his best to channel Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. Wiseau’s lack of fear sparks the awe of Greg (Dave Franco) an aspiring actor paralyzed by fear. Franco and his brother exude the chemistry you’d expect two brothers to have. It’s perfect casting. Greg and Tommy have a brother like relationship. It’s an odd bromance of sorts that serves as the films core story. Franco’s ability as a director to focus on this relationship is what sets The Disaster Artist a part from the other behind-the-scenes Hollywood films. Greg and Tommy’s friendship is never mawkish in the way “bromances” are often depicted on film.
Franco isn’t just recreating The Room, he’s defining the context of its absurdity. Within this, we see Tommy’s vision. We see his desire to be the best. We don’t quite get the full picture of Tommy’s aura of mystery, and to some respect, the movie can feel like it’s honoring him more so than he may deserve. We see him verbally abusing his lead actress (Ari Graynor) to the point of a near catastrophic meltdown on set. Sandy (Seth Rogen) his script supervisor and de-facto director when Tommy is in a scene, and his director of photography (Paul Scheer) clash with Tommy’s vision. Their interactions result in some of the more effective dramatic moments in the film.
James Franco gives what is possibly his career best performance. Franco brilliantly conveys Tommy’s fearless, yet deeply insecure personality. On the surface, Tommy’s care-free behavior is merely a cover for the deep seeded need to prove to everyone he isn’t a failure. Capturing nearly every facet of Tommy’s ways, right down to his bizarre laugh, Franco loses himself in this role. The best performances are ones that you forget who you’re watching during the film.
Holding his own against his brother is Dave Franco. Though there isn’t as much depth to Greg’s character as Tommy, Dave brings a charming and commanding performance in the role. Joining the Franco’s are the aforementioned Rogen, Scheer and Grayor along with Josh Hutcherson, Allison Brie, Sharon Stone and Zac Efron. It is truly one of the best ensemble cast performances of 2017. The talent on screen perhaps helps propel Franco, in his widest released film behind the camera, to be a director to watch out for. As a director, Franco pays as much attention to his actors as he does to his own work as Wiseau.
Though it’ll likely be compared to Ed Wood, this is a film that is able to separate itself. Wiseau and Wood are certainly a lot alike. They’d make an excellent double feature, but The Disaster Artist is able to stand alone. Despite its proclivity to avoid the deeper motivations of Tommy Wiseau, Franco’s work is stunning, and a tremendous achievement. The Disaster Artist earns full marks for never mocking Wiseau in a space that it would be easy to. For a man that has received as much flack as Wiseau has from everyone, it’s a wonderful juxtaposition to see someone admiring an admittedly flawed creative process. And still, The Room will continue to be mocked, while The Disaster Artist will if nothing else, provide some earnest context to the madness of the mystery that is Tommy Wiseau.
The Disaster Artist
Runtime: 104 Minutes
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Allison Brie, Paul Scheer, Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, Ari Graynor
Directed by: James Franco