Jan-2-2018

Reel Snippet – The Disaster Artist

Summary: Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) is an aspiring acting student in San Francisco going nowhere until he meets a strange student named Tommy Wiseau (James Franco), who is tight-lipped about just about every aspect of his personal life. Tommy has absolutely no talent to call his own, but is fearless in a way that magnetizes Greg to him. The two form a strong, if very odd, bond and in no time at all, the two drive to Los Angeles to make it in the movies. But when the two don’t have a ton of luck, they decide to go it on their own and make their own movie.

It soon becomes clear that this is going to be an odd shoot. Despite apparently having no job, Tommy has a seemingly bottomless bank account which he uses to fund the movie in its entirety and making some very odd production choices. His eccentric and erratic behavior continue to the point that the cast and crew find it nigh impossible to work with and keep their sanity. Greg is also feeling the pressure because he’s having some mild success in Hollywood, but Tommy is becoming a toxic anchor. But as Tommy’s friend, Greg feels obligated to help him finish his passion project, even though it looks more and more like it’ll be a total disaster.

Review: The Disaster Artist is a fascinating movie that repeatedly crosses the line between funny and tragic. This movie based on the book of the same name (actually, the book title is much longer) chronicles the odd friendship between Tommy and Greg and their making of The Room, revered by many as a cult classic for being the worst movie ever. While I certainly don’t agree with that — as I’ve covered numerous movies I considered worse than The Room — it does have an absolutely magnetic incompetence that deserves to be understood. The Disaster Artist definitely succeeds there as we are privy to a production run by a man with endless ambition and zero talent.

Let’s get to the main focus of the movie: Tommy and Greg. James Franco’s impression of Mr. Wiseau is absolutely spot on; while he’s considerably more attractive, he has Wiseau’s inflections and speech down pat. I don’t know what kind of makeup and wig work they did on him, but those people deserve a lot more work. Dave Franco as Greg Sestero, however, has the opposite problem since I don’t really see Greg Sestero brought to life. While Greg in real life doesn’t have a ton of quirks to latch onto, all I see is Dave Franco in a fake beard. There are a ton of other fun cameos too, like Zac Efron and Josh Hutcherson as the people who play Chris-R and Denny respectively, Judd Apatow as a talent agent that Tommy humiliates himself in front of, and Seth Rogen as Sandy the line producer-turned-de-facto-director. Of course, Rogen and Franco are practically joined at the hip nowadays, so it’s not surprising to see him here.

For all the fun to be had, there’s an underlying element of tragedy: Tommy Wiseau is his own worst enemy. For all his ambition and heart, his mind is so tortured with self-doubt, jealousy, paranoia, and desperation that he sabotages his relationships with people as well as his own movie. That’s not to say he’s a total victim here, as he commits many acts of pure jackassery, including mistreating the actors and screwing his best friend out of opportunities for purely selfish reasons. But the acting is so good at portraying his tortured antics that it ellicited a first from me: it made me feel bad for laughing at Tommy Wiseau.

From what I’ve read, the movie takes a number of liberties from the source material (the book was apparently much darker with Tommy going as far as to open Greg’s mail and record their phone calls), so it loses some points for Hollywooding it up. Still, the attention to detail delivers the raw feeling of being part of such a crazy experience. I don’t know how many people will find it to be their cup of tea, but my dad saw it with me and despite having never seen The Room, he enjoyed it quite a bit. Because of that, I feel confident recommending this strange experience so that you can have an opinion of your own.

Fun Tidbit: There’s a fun little visual pun hidden in plain sight that connoisseurs of The Room will have fun with. The complex that Tommy and Greg live in is named Ojai according to a giant neon sign. Presumably, it’s pronounced “oh-hai,” which would make it a reference to Tommy’s character in The Room greeting everyone by saying, “Oh hi, .” It’s one of the many parts of The Room that has become a meme.


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