DIRECTOR: James Franco STARRING: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogan, Alison Brie, Josh Hutcherson, Ari Greynor, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Brian Cranston
Before I start this review, I feel like I need to provide you some context. Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, known to many as “the best worst movie of all time”, became immediately one of my favorite movies upon first watch. Not because of how good it is (it isn’t… it REALLY isn’t), but because it is so unintentionally awful that it becomes great, like an absurd alchemy of coprolites turning into gold. As you may already know if you are familiarized with the film (and if you are, you might just share my joy of watching it at least once a year and trying to show it to new people), The Room developed a cult following unlike any film ever has, and to this day it continues playing in midnight screenings worldwide with Tommy Wiseau and fellow actor Greg Sestero attending several of these and participating in Q&A sessions with fans.
In 2013, Greg Sestero released a (nearly) all-telling book called The Disaster Artist, documenting his relationship with Wiseau and the grueling, torturous and gut-bustingly hilarious process of making The Room. It is on that book that James Franco bases his film with the same name. And being the massive The Room fan that he is… oh boy, what a thrill ride he brought us.
Let’s get this out of the way immediately: James Franco acts and directs the shit out of this film. It might just be his greatest achievement thus far. As an actor, he succeeds at disappearing into the character (I know he’s a man, but he feels like a character) of Tommy Wiseau, perfectly capturing his idiosyncrasies: his dramatic movements, his incomparable voice, his manic and stubborn personality, his secrecy regarding his background and finances… and as a director, Franco understands something important: as much of a fanboy as you might be, a passion project has to be, above all else, good. Franco makes it great by adding plenty of emotional build-up to the relationship that Tommy and Greg share, and as an effect the film becomes more than a “making-of documentary” of what happened on the original film’s set. Friendship is one of the most important topics of this movie, and by the time the film concludes, the payoff is tremendous. The plot revolves as much (or more) around Greg, and his evolution personality-wise is notable throughout the film. Dave Franco gives a great performance here as well and carries his share of the story effortlessly. Seth Rogan is also quite funny here, but he does not get as much to do in the movie as our two main protagonists. Nor does the rest of the cast, which is a shame, but at the same time they are not the core of this movie’s message. Yeah, because there’s actually something quite deep here that the film has to say.
As delusional and misguided as it may sometimes be, the artistic pursuit will always be an arduous one. The Disaster Artist shows us that in spades, with dozens of scenes reenacting the original’s moments, easily satisfying any fans of The Room. But there are also moments where although what you see on the screen is hilarious, you might not laugh when you see the impact it has on those who made it. By the end of this film, we are so maddeningly in love with it that we just want to give Tommy Wiseau either a hug or a fist-bump.
I honestly cannot recommend The Disaster Artist enough, especially if you like The Room (and please go check it out as soon as possible with as many friends as you can). Its only flaw: 104 minutes is criminally short for such an enjoyable film. But hey, if we can have extended cuts of brainless superhero flics, maybe Mr. Franco can take a cue from that. Let’s hope so.