Directed By: James Franco
Release Date: December 1, 2017
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor
I'm going to keep this simple. James Franco's The Disaster Artist is one of my favorite movies of 2017. An adaptation of Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell's book, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, its story chronicles the real-life events surrounding how Sestero met Tommy Wiseau, the tipsy-turny friendship that followed, and, of course, the eventual production of Wiseau's The Room, a film so bad that it's managed to sidestep simply fading into obscurity and transcend into something of legend, a curiosity among a legion of fans who still turn out in droves to attend screenings and know every line of dialogue by heart.
The Room is an anomaly, one whose infamous production is just as fascinating to hear retold as cracking open the enigma that is Wiseau is, and Franco and writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber are all acutely aware of this. The Disaster Artist could have easily been made for a very specific crowd, pandering solely to fans who have seen The Room or treating the whole thing as a joke, but those involved ensure that everybody feels welcome here. You need not have seen The Room or know anything about Wiseau going in to appreciate what's on display in The Disaster Artist, though certainly lacking that knowledge will make one wonder how such a story and human being can actually exist, and that's what helps make the whole endeavor more successful than it had any right to be.
This is a story about dreamers. In 1998, a teenage Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) watched Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) drop an off-putting bomb of a performance on their acting class only to ask him afterwards to perform a scene with him. From there, the two develop a friendship that brings them to Los Angeles to chase their dreams of making it big. It doesn't take long for things to start falling into place in Greg's life, getting an agent and a girlfriend and putting his nose to the grindstone, but for Wiseau, with his indiscernible accent and generally weird behavior, nothing goes right. In time, though, Greg learns how rough Hollywood can be, and when both men are at their lowest, Wiseau takes to heart an idea Greg throws out: To take charge of their own fate by making a movie of their own. And thus The Room was born, the production of which tests the limits of the two men's friendship and the sanity of everyone else who gets sucked into its orbit.
To be fair, The Disaster Artist tiptoes around some of the darker aspects of the story its telling for the sake of being a little more optimistic, more often than not backing away completely from diving into truly strange territory. When Greg met Wiseau, for instance, Greg was 19, while Wiseau - clearly far older - always claims to be Greg's age. Wiseau calls Greg "Babyface" and convinces him to move to Los Angeles with him, and while this concerning issue is touched upon through Greg's mother (played by Megan Mullally) desperately trying to talk Greg out of uprooting his life on the insistence of a strange man he'd only just met, it's never really played up again as anything more than a peculiar joke. Wiseau gets jealous of Greg's successes and often reacts like something akin to a scorned lover, such as when Greg decides to move out to be with girlfriend, but whether it's because Wiseau is simply overly-attached and envious or because of something far deeper is left up to the viewer rather than attempting to provide any concrete explanation.
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