The Mancunion

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Review: The Disaster Artist

James Franco directs and stars in the story behind the making of the ‘greatest bad movie ever made’

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Sharknado. Sex Lives of the Potato Men. Spiderman 3. There have been some colossal stinkers to somehow make it onto the big screen through the years. Yet there is one which eclipses them all. The Room, directed, written and produced by the eccentric enigma which is Tommy Wiseau, has gained staggering cult status since its release in 2003. There are regular screenings of the film across the world, and it has even earned a Blu-Ray release.

In 2013 a book was written by journalist Tom Bissell and Room actor Greg Sestero, named The Disaster Artist, which detailed the catastrophic production of the film, as well as the affectionate yet turbulent relationship between Sestero and Wiseau.  James Franco’s latest directorial outing is the visual realization of this tale.

The story opens in late 90s San Francisco. Sestero (Dave Franco) and Wiseau (James Franco), both struggling actors, bond through their mutual acting inadequacies, and choose to move to Los Angeles, seeking fame and fortune. However, when Hollywood rejects the pair, they choose to make their own film — The Room.

Sestero and Wiseau are drunk with starry-eyed optimism, yet as production begins, questions arise over Tommy’s sanity and know-how as a filmmaker.

For a film which is mocked and mimicked on a global basis by YouTube viewers, there was the suspicion The Disaster Artist would follow in the same vein. It could so easily have been a straight ridicule or parody of Wiseau’s feature, yet instead, it is evident that Franco and everyone involved has immense respect for The Room and its creator.

Each scene they recreate is carried out with detail and care – costumes, sets and performances are near identical to the original scenes, and this is proven prior to the end credits, where the original and re-enacted scenes are played out side by side, to hysterical effect.

It is the Franco-Rogen crew who are the pioneers behind The Disaster Artist. They are a group who, as loveable as they are, have a mixed back catalogue, and are guilty of devising hilarious concepts which might have worked better in their heads than on screen. 2013’s This Is the End was enjoyable, but stoner-Xmas comedy The Night Before (2015) fell flat on its face and Sausage Party (2016) was abysmal and appallingly tasteless.

Thankfully, their homage to Wiseau and The Room is a cut above their preceding projects.

The laughs are pretty much constant, but this cinematic adaptation of the true story is as moving as it is comical. Behind all the horrendous favourite lines (“YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA!” et al.) and moments of madness involving Franco’s Wiseau, there is warmth and tragedy.

Do not be mistaken – the comedy prevails above the drama, but Wiseau’s longing to create a Tennessee Williams-esque masterpiece places the character in the front-running for most sympathetic film persona of the year.

James Franco’s performance as the bizarre, almost vampiric filmmaker is undoubtedly the driving force behind the movie. There has been no questioning Franco’s acting prowess in the past, but this portrayal of Wiseau could prove to be his most iconic role yet. Parallelisms are inevitably drawn with Johnny Depp in Ed Wood (1994), yet the fervour and authenticity of Franco’s transformation into Wiseau even echoes performances such as Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman or even Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote.

Franco is joined by his brother Dave for the first time on the big screen, and undoubtedly it is the two siblings who are the most invested in the 2003 disaster-piece. This being said, The Room’s resonance throughout the Hollywood collective is glaring. Franco’s film is littered with cameos from stars such as Bryan Cranston, Zac Efron, and Sharon Stone, who are all clearly fans of the original text and wanted in on this unique project.

There is little to criticise about this comedic biography. A post-credits scene which stars Wiseau himself does feel forced, but as Franco has confirmed in interviews, it was a condition given by Wiseau in order for the film to be given the go-ahead, and in the grand scheme of things, it is a small price to pay.

Hilarious yet equally sincere, The Disaster Artist is a beautiful tribute by Franco and co. to The Room and its crew. It hits all the right notes and is essentially an endearing love letter to a truly awful film which has brought so much laughter to so many people.

4/5