Connoisseurs of bad movie viewing know the best ones think they’re good movies. That’s why you can keep your Sharknado and basically any self-knowing impostor. Those films know they’re bad and can only hope the viewer plays along. 2003’s The Room, now a cult sensation that still enjoys midnight screenings worldwide, certainly believes it is good. The conviction of its auteur, a strange and mystifying man named Tommy Wiseau, certainly lends credence to the idea that he felt he was making Oscar material. Playing the film’s production and release as an underdog story, The Disaster Artist, adapted from the book of same name by Wiseau friend and co-star Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, is an enormously entertaining look at film making dreams and the legacy that comes with making a truly terrible one.
Greg (Dave Franco) is an aspiring actor. One day in his acting class he meets the enigmatic Tommy (James Franco), an over-the-top acting hopeful who realistically has no shot of ever landing a role. The two bond over a shared love for James Dean and his ever-so-short career. Fed up with the local scene, Tommy reveals that he has a condo in Los Angeles. The two drive out there and, after bombing a few auditions, eventually decide to produce Tommy’s very own dream project: The Room.
Movies about making movies can be fickle business, but The Disaster Artist has such juicy material to work with that it flows effortlessly. The script, by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, brilliantly plays into the mystery that is Tommy Wiseau. No one really knows where he is from (he’ll always say New Orleans) or how he has, as one character puts it, a “bottomless pit” of money. Wiseau reportedly spent $6 million on The Room, which was shot on a sound stage and green screen with bargain basement actors. But that’s the charm of the thing: it’s so out of left field and improbable that Neustadter and Weber are able to craft a wonderful dark horse story about chasing your dream. It certainly helps to have seen The Room prior to The Disaster Artist, but it’s not a requirement. The most notorious scenes speak for themselves and have become so ingrained in cinematic pop culture that you’ve likely already heard them quoted.
James Franco, who also directed, is pitch-perfect in the lead role. He effortlessly balances poking fun at Wiseau and The Room while never hanging him out to dry as a punching bag. He’s a strange person who’s idea of a good movie is certainly…interesting, but he also up and did what most don’t have the stones to do: make a movie and own it. Dave Franco is also excellent as the foil constantly trying to talk some sense into Tommy. Obviously a better actor than Tommy, Franco nails the scenes in which Greg tries to make sense of a completely nonsensical script.
The Room grossed $1,800 in its opening weekend during the summer of 2003. Wiseau himself paid to keep the film in a few theaters for two weeks so it would be eligible for the Academy Awards. Because of course he did. Fast forward a decade and the film is a midnight sensation that has grossed millions. Wiseau himself is still as reclusive and mysterious as ever, but The Disaster Artist does him and the film proud. There are plenty of laughs to be had wrapped around a respectful and surprisingly touching core.
Length: 103 Minutes
Rating: R for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity.
Theatrical Release: December 1, 2017
Directed by: James Franco
Written by: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber. Based upon the book “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell.
Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Alison Brie