Summary: The making of the best worst movie of all time.
“You should watch The Room if you like movies so much,” said some random guy I worked with back in 2012. He then proceeded to show me the infamous “Oh hi Mark” scene. I immediately said I’d pass. Five years later, that attitude has come to bite me in the butt with James Franco’s hilarious, sad, and uplifting version, The Disaster Artist, which gives us a fictionalized behind-the-scenes look on a much beloved terrible movie.
Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, a delusional (insert vague profession here) with acting and filmmaking dreams, pockets of money, and no friends. He befriends Greg (Dave Franco) in an acting class and the two move to Los Angeles to make their Hollywood dreams a reality. After getting shunned by casting agents, they embark on their own production. With no filmmaking experience (“What’s a DP?” Franco asks in one scene) or real acting experience, The Room and its process inevitably morphs into the catastrophe we all know and… know today.
As a fan of some truly awful movies (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation always comes to mind), it was a lot of fun to watch this even if I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original source. There’s something just delightful when reveling in something everyone knows is truly awful. Like who doesn’t love the line, “Get in the choppa!”? Even better, there aren’t people who try to defend this as a good movie so it’s one of those experiences where absolutely everyone is on the same page. (Come on people, it’s okay to say you like a bad movie- just admit it’s bad! It’s so much more fun.) I saw this opening weekend, where there was an entire audience who wasn’t afraid to laugh out loud. It was one of those communal, culty viewings where people cheer and chuckle at all the right parts. However, I don’t think you need to see The Room to enjoy The Disaster Artist, though it did give me a nice sense of preparedness and anticipation for the right moments.
Let’s be real, I’ll never write a review of The Disaster Artist’s subject except here: The Room gets a straight up D, for horrendous acting and bad stories that don’t go anywhere… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I only watched it to prepare for The Disaster Artist and I wouldn’t do it again. I get the cult value behind it and why some people are crazy about The Citizen Kane of bad movies. I wouldn’t say it’s for me. But The Disaster Artist is! If there’s one thing I love (or a few things), it’s Franco being zany. Also, Seth Rogen playing Seth Rogen. And people that enjoy bad things. And references. As bad as The Room may be, there’s a real reverence in The Disaster Artist that makes it seem it’s one of the greatest projects to ever grace cinema. Weird, huh? This is due to Franco’s tongue-in-cheek treatment of the subject matter as a fan- he treats his subject matter with nothing but affection, bringing to the forefront all the nuances and inconsistencies.
While this treatment is wildly entertaining on its own, Franco fills all the gaps from The Room, acknowledging the absurdity, actual character development, human dialogue, a linear story, and a sense of “what the fuck is going on?” Providing the whole ordeal with completion and heart is Franco’s wisest move as it not only summarizes how most fans of the room feel but also give a great deal of insight into the painstaking filmmaking process. It simultaneously humanizes Wiseau, who is somehow both bland and larger than life at the same time.
Along paying tribute to The Room, Franco makes his own great culty moments, throwing in a sweet Bryan Cranston cameo, Zac Efron appearance, and some one-liners that are immediate nods to the industry and filmmaking experience. He has a real understanding of the audience experience that sets The Disaster Artist apart from other reference dependent projects.
Franco has done a fantastic job here of cementing his ambitions as both a filmmaker and actor. He’s had a couple of zany projects in the past few years that left people questioning his sanity but he has never given anyone a reason to question his legitimacy as an actor. He really is the perfect combination of weird mainstream and sheepish confidence with the right amount of self-deprecating-back-patting a project like this needed. The Disaster Artist is hilarious, poignant, and reflective all at once, finally letting Franco balance his silliness and wit at once. Hollywood loves louder-than-life stories about its dreamers so I expect this is going to be seen at awards shows for the next few months, but make no mistake- it is very well-deserved. If this is what filmmaker Franco has to offer as his passion project, you can sign me up for the next few projects.