“The Disaster Artist” (2017)

Drama/Comedy

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Written by: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Based on: ‘The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made’ by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell

Directed by: James Franco

Featuring:  James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson and Jacki Weaver

Greg Sestero: Tommy, dude, this really isn’t necessary. 

Tommy Wiseau: No, no! Very necessary. I need to show my ass to sell this picture.

The one thing Hollywood loves are films about making films, from “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952) to “The Player” (1992) to this years “The Disaster Artist” (2017) people love to see not only the magic behind making good films, but also the possible calamities that occur when novices don’t have a clue, but do have passion. The story of Tommy Wiseau and his sidekick Greg Sestero is akin to the great Ed Wood’s story, one if misplaced passion, misplaced talent and misplaced money – although many great endeavors have started with less. This movie is most definitely a comedy more broad than you might imagine it to be, it is pretty much wall to wall laughs in one way shape or form from the beginning to the end – make no mistake this is also a very smart and canny film from James Franco who has spent years perfecting his art so he could competently make a film like “The Disaster Artist”.

This new movie written/produced/directed by multi-hyphenate James Franco really is like many other films of its genre, a love letter to movie making, all the ups and downs, the failures as well as the successes. This film would not exist if the subject of it, Wiseau, was not seen as a laughing stock or his own movie on which this is based, “The Room” (2003) had not been such a failure or an in-joke in Hollywood. To be fair to Wiseau, Franco treats him as a real person and does not burn him at the stake for his talent. In fact this movie has much in common with Tim Burton’s best film “Ed Wood” (1994) about a man who would not let talent get in his way.

“The Disaster Artist” starts it story in San Francisco, 1998, 19-year-old Greg Sestero meets a mysterious man, Tommy Wiseau, in acting classes with Jean Shelton. Shelton rips apart Tommy’s performance of a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire, but Greg is impressed by Tommy’s fearlessness and the two become friends. On Tommy’s suggestion, they move to Los Angeles to pursue acting careers.

Greg signs with Iris Burton, a talent agent, while Tommy faces rejection from agencies, casting directors, and Hollywood insiders. Greg develops a relationship with Amber, whom he meets at a nightclub, and Tommy grows jealous; as he fails to find work, he becomes disheartened. As Greg’s auditions also dry up, he shares his frustrations with Tommy, who decides to make a movie for them both to star in.

The cast of this film is huge, wisely Franco has filled out the minor parts with comedians or actors known for their comedy chops. This is definitely a study of both Greg Sestero and Tommy Wiseau who meet form a friendship of sorts, and chase their dreams in the sunny city of LA, both without a clue. Franco who plays the enigmatic and frankly strange Wiseau seems made for not only the part, but a wise choice to direct the film. Franco has directed at least four low budget and not well received independent films, seemingly learning how to direct on the job so when it came to something special he knew what he was doing, as well as how to deal with a subject that we witness in “The Disaster Artist”. Playing the co-lead is James Franco’s brother Dave who started acting after his big brother but is enough of a talent that his casting here is definitely not nepotism, particularly if you have seen Dave in a few of his other roles, he has some of the same cheeky charm that his brother has and isn’t afraid to deploy it.

If you have seen “The Room” then you will recognize many of the scenes you witness being filmed here, of course here you get to see some of the behind the scenes shenanigans that go on. Here they are doubly funny as you have someone like Wiseau who has not a clue about what he is doing, relying on others to actually carry out the technical aspects of the movie while he attempts to perform. These scenes are where “The Disaster Artist” really comes alive when we have Wiseau acting his heart out not really aware of what he is doing – imagine if Ed Wood acted as well as directed, its that kind of reckless abandon where you feel like there should be a sign saying ‘Quiet, genius at work’. The trick here is that everyone on the set of the “The Room” realize they are making something terrible, while Wiseau is under the impression it is not only a work of art but will be his calling card into the Hollywood elite. Like his cast and crew we know that is not the case, I did find myself wanting to stop watching this movie and start watching the one they were making – but that is how it should make you feel, a part of the process.

I am not sure about others but I did find myself asking what makes “The Disaster Artist ” different from any making of or a special behind the scenes feature that you can find on any DVD or Blu-ray. There is even a proliferation of documentaries looking back at truly legendary films; the best is the Eleanor Coppola film “Hearts of Darkness: A filmmakers apocalypse” (1991). Of course the answer is that this film’s subject is about a failure of sorts, as well as a success that is proven in an A-list actor bringing together like minded people to honor an independent movie from a maverick (of sorts) who put his money where his mouth was creating something few peple get to actually do, that is have 100% creative control and freedom to express himself in the way he wanted to, never ever apologizing for it.

There is so much to say about The Disaster Artist that it will be talked about long after it disappears from cinemas and this awards season is through. The truth is that this is a very good film made by someone, James Franco, who is as unique a personality as Wiseau himself is, to this day. Franco had a great introduction to show business, floundered a little then seemed to find himself, garnering an Oscar nomination for best actor for the great 127 Hours (2010), now he has started to choose projects more wisely as well as directing, this movie proving he has talent and taste to offer. What is great to see is that Franco has embraced the narrative and goes with it to the point where he plays the part without irony or any knowing winks to the camera, which many people may have thought to play it – here Wiseau does not become the hero or a misunderstood genius, he is just a man finding his way without any real guidebook or assistance.

I recommend this movie highly it is a fantastic comedy with real emotion as well as heart and it shows what is possible and one of life’s most important lessons, be true to yourself.

“The Disaster Artist” is out in cinemas now.

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