“The Disaster Artist” is a biopic about “The Room,” the most iconic “so bad it’s good” movie of all time. This story revolves around aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) who befriends another aspiring actor named Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and moves with him from San Francisco to Los Angeles so they can both pursue their dreams. After many failed attempts at finding acting roles in Hollywood, the two decide to make their own movie, but doing so becomes crazier than expected. Now the question still remains: Did this biography, which is also based on a nonfiction book from Sestero of the same name, live up to the hype? Absolutely.
I’ve known about “The Room” for a few years now but only watched the movie for the first time towards the end of the summer and loved it for what it was: a feature that fails on all filmmaking while at the same time is so entertaining because of how those involved tried to make a quality film. Watching “The Room” made me even more excited for “The Disaster Artist,” and while attending a special screening of the former, I was invited to an advance screening of the latter. Knowing that “The Room” is famous for late night screenings in packed theaters, I was excited to participate in this experience for the first time and it was definitely better than the movie itself, calling out on-screen flaws such as out-of-focus shots, yelling quotable lines such as “You are tearing me apart, Lisa!” and especially throwing plastic spoons at the screen whenever a picture of a spoon appeared made seeing “The Room” in theaters truly memorable.
On a technical level, “The Disaster Artist” is better made than the movie it’s about. Brandon Trost’s cinematography often features a noticeable glare and therefore gives the Southern California setting authenticity. James Franco also directs the film and makes the wise choice of using handheld camera to give it a much-needed documentary feel. The editing in “The Disaster Artist” is also surprising; there was one scene transition in particular that appealed to me as an aspiring screenwriter. To prove how passionate Franco and company are about the source material, the film ends with side-by-side comparisons of iconic scenes from “The Room” with “The Disaster Artist” actors re enacting those scenes and they look indistinguishable from each other; that alone is worth the price of admission.
In terms of performances, each actor brings their character to life no matter how much screen time they receive. Many critics who saw “The Disaster Artist” at film festivals said that James Franco should receive an Oscar nomination for playing Tommy Wiseau, and I agree. From his voice to his mannerisms, Franco genuinely captures the essence of Wiseau and as the film progressed, I could no longer see the actor but only the person.
Dave Franco is also noteworthy as Greg Sestero, Tommy’s best friend and one of the leads in “The Room.” He hasn’t played many reserved roles throughout his career but thankfully plays this one well, which is especially important because the story is told through his perspective. Although some may think that casting Dave Franco as Sestero is nepotistic, he and James’s brotherly relationship presumably helped create their terrific on-screen chemistry. Other supporting actors include Alison Brie, Seth Rogen and Paul Scheer, all of whom deliver despite having minor roles. Similarly, “The Disaster Artist” features many celebrity cameos (which I won’t spoil in this review) and some of them were random in the best way possible.
The film’s screenplay from “(500) Days of Summer” writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber exceeds my expectations. Although “The Disaster Artist” is intentionally hilarious, it also has plenty of heart which I did not expect.
Instead of merely using “The Disaster Artist” to poke fun at Tommy’s many mistakes, the filmmakers celebrate why “The Room” is so successful, answering long gesturing questions surrounding this unintentional comedy while also keeping that same shroud of mystery behind it. Several behind-the-scenes stories that I’ve heard aren’t present in the film but what is there is integral to the story and never interrupts the steady pace of this 103-minute feature. Wiseau has famously claimed that Sestero’s book is only 40 percent accurate to what actually happened, but has recently stated that the film, in comparison, is 99.9 percent accurate.
Nonetheless, the film probably had to take liberties with its source material in order to tell a coherent narrative. “The Disaster Artist” also presents an inspirational message about following dreams in a fascinating manner. Tommy Wiseau wanted to become famous and he did even if it’s not how he intended. For that reason, anyone who’s passionate about anything should definitely see “The Disaster Artist” because it will make them want to fulfill their goals even more regardless of how they interpret the film’s messages.
“The Disaster Artist” is one of the best films to come out this year. An inspirational story with an amazing lead performance and respect for the source material. If this film receives one Oscar nomination, I sincerely hope that Tommy Wiseau appears at the Oscars ceremony in all his football throwing glory.