Hot Take: I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a James Franco fan but as the eccentric mind behind possibly the worst movie in film history Tommy Wiseau, he’s bizarrely brilliant.
Many reactions to the bizarrely awful 2003 film The Room lead people down a path of wanting to know how a film like that ever gets made. Enter The Disaster Artist. A biopic featuring the main culprit behind the film, Tommy Wiseau whose mysterious bottomless bank account was able to help him write, direct, produce and star in a $6 million production. Starring (and directed) James Franco in his best role of his career, The Disaster Artist takes the audience inside the film, provides an interesting back story that’s almost as bizarre as the film and tries to shed some light on how The Room became what it was.
The story begins in San Francisco in 1998 where aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) meets the oddly mysterious Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in an acting class. While most in the class (including the teacher) sees Wiseau’s performance of a scene from Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire as terrible, Sestero becomes infatuated with his fearlessness and seeks out Wiseau to do a scene together. What results is the two forming an unusual friendship that leads the two to move together to Los Angeles. As the two struggle to find acting work and Sestero meets Amber (Alison Brie), Wiseau’s frustration with their lack of acting success and jealousy of his best friend’s relationship with someone other than him, Wiseau gets the idea to write his own film and reveals his plan to produce the film himself. Wiseau spends the next three years writing The Room and presents it to Sestero and offers him the part of Mark.
The rest of the film takes us behind the scenes of the unusual, awful and peculiar inner workings of what happened on the set and on the screen of The Room. Wiseau’s off-the-wall behavior is taxing to the cast and crew and Franco’s performance as what is essentially an anti-hero is mesmerizing. It’s hard to condone Wiseau’s actions but it’s also easy to commend his passion. It’s also hilarious and if the audience I saw it with is any indication, the closer relationship you have with the awful film The Room, the more you’ll find The Disaster Artist funny. Wiseau is a real character and delivers Franco the potential role of his career and, let’s give credit to Franco for delivering on the potential. He nails his performance and gives an emotionally invested, hilarious and heartfelt homage to Wiseau.
While The Disaster Artist is about the making of The Room, at its heart, this is a character study of the mysterious, outlandish Wiseau. It’s a vehicle to show off Franco’s talents as a character actor and will likely result in his second Best Actor nomination. (His first being 2010’s 127 Hours.) Working beside his brother doesn’t hurt as the two have excellent chemistry on screen which gives credibility to the Wiseau/Sestero dynamic. It also doesn’t hurt having a supporting cast littered with regulars from other Franco films most notably Seth Rogen. Heck, Franco even wrangles his Why Him? co-star Bryan Cranston to appear as himself.
As a harsh Franco critic in the past, I’m the opposite here. His performance is worth the price admission alone when it comes to The Disaster Artist. While his performance overshadows the film itself, that’s not necessarily a bad thing because the film is also excellent. It would be a shock if Franco doesn’t find himself nominated for Best Actor at this year’s Academy Awards. In the vein of Ed Wood, The Disaster Artist delivers insight on one of the biggest cinematic train wrecks of all-time. The result is a highly watchable love letter to Wiseau and his awful creation that has delighted midnight movie audiences for the years since. It’s also a career-defining moment for Franco who has found balance between performance art and schlocky comedy.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Franco & Franco
While brother James gets the majority of the attention, Dave’s supporting role as best friend Greg should not go unnoticed. The two show great synergy on screen and it elevates the film.
- The End Credits
There’s something about the side-by-side comparison of The Room and the re-creation of the scenes in The Disaster Artist that gives you a glimpse of how truly brilliant this film is.
- Franco’s Galaxy of Guest Stars
Somehow, Franco is able to attract a lot of talent to his work and The Disaster Artist is no exception. There are the Franco regulars but he’s also able to pull Sharon Stone and Melanie Griffith which, I guess, expands the Franco Cinematic Universe.