Review: The Disaster Artist

is left unimpressed by James Franco’s cinematic retelling of the making of one of the best-worst movies of all time

Image: A24


Director: James Franco

Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen

Length: 1hr 44m

Rating: 15

Despite their apparent awfulness, many people can find themselves loving so-bad-theyre-goodfilms. There’s almost too many to name: Troll 2, Birdemic: Shock and Terror, Battlefield: Earth, Plan 9 From Outer Space, that animated Titanic movie with the rapping dog, and of course, the 2003 masterpiece of terrible: The Room. For those who dont know, The Room is considered the greatest of the funny-badmovies, with much of the humour stemming from the bizarre figure of its writer/director/producer and lead actor Tommy Wiseau (who may or may not be human). James Francos The Disaster Artist follows the up-and-down relationship between Wiseau and fellow The Room star Greg Oh Hi MarkSestero, whose memoirs about the making of The Room lend structure to an otherwise sprawling and near-decade long narrative. So does The Disaster Artist live up to the hype, and does it do its source material justice? Well

Image: A24

The story of Greg Sesteros relationship with the strange, enigmatic figure of Tommy Wiseau is interesting, and its funny watching Wiseaus ridiculous antics being met first with naïve reverence then later frustration by Sestero. The issue with the film is that we are asked to believe in a friendship between Wiseau and Sestero, which just doesnt add up from Wiseaus behaviour. If the relationship were purely financial, which in some ways it is, with Sestero using Wiseaus LA apartment as a means to forwarding his acting career, then Sestero wouldnt come across as so passive and dumb. Instead we are asked to believe in a deeper connection between the two men that never rings true. Itd be like befriending an emotionally unstable hobgoblin.

This isnt helped by the performances. James Franco does a great Tommy Wiseau impression, and its a credit to his abilities as an actor that the impression never becomes grating. But thats all it is, an impression, with Franco preferring to copy the persona of Wiseau, instead of attempting to humanise him (if thats even possible). So every attempt at emotion rings hollow, as just as with Wiseau in real life, everything is an act; a part of his persona. Everyone else in the film is fine. David Franco is serviceable as Greg Sestero, but like James he never elevates the role. Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Hannibal Buress, Zac Efron and other talented actors and comediansfeature. None of them are particularly funny or memorable and arent given enough screen time to shine or develop, as all of the focus is given to the Franco brothers, who seem to have banked on all of the comedy coming from the Tommy Wiseau impression, which, while funny at times, doesnt hold a near-two hour movie together.

Image: A24

The Disaster Artist has a lack of focus and vision, too. From its title and central theme of auteurship, it purports to carry the torch of Tommy Wiseaus legend, much like Tim Burtons excellent film about the Worst Director in Hollywood, Ed Wood, in attempting to (ironically) place Wiseaus work amongst the unique filmmakers of the past. The problem is that the films framing and screenplay do not match this central thesis of building the myth of Tommy Wiseau. Shot documentary-style with naturalistic lighting and shaky cam, the visuals imply a realist retelling of Wiseaus career. But because the film never attempts to look past Wiseaus persona and because it refuses to actually criticise or find depth in his humanity, the film fails to recreate him as a compelling protagonist and fails as an informative document. Things only get worse when we are shown how incompetent and abusive he was as a director. In a year where toxicity and misogyny in the film industry are being challenged, Wiseaus antics on-set are off-putting.

In one of the few informative moments of the film, we hear the opinions of the cast and crew, gaining a greater understanding of their experiences and why they would be part of such a production. It made me wish, either, that the film were about these actual human beings, or that it were a documentary exploring what actually happened and tore down some of the mythos surrounding Wiseau. But instead we are given nothing we havent already seen before because Franco wanted to do a Tommy Wiseau impression and remake scenes of The Room.

Unfortunately, unlike the film its built upon, The Disaster Artist is not-so-bad-its-good. Its competent and interesting enough to hold your attention, but lacks style and narrative focus and is nowhere near as funny as a movie featuring Tommy Wiseau should be. The funniest moments are those weve already seen in The Room: Wiseaus laugh, Why is he having sex with her belly button?, You all betray me!etc. so you might as well just watch The Room. Where that film was iconic, this is sadly forgettable. If you havent seen The Room, go watch that instead, and if you have seen The Room, thenwatch The Disaster Artist if you want, but its not worth your time.

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