When a small movie called ‘The Room’ hit two theaters in the Los Angeles area in 2003, no one knew what to do with the film or Tommy Wiseau, its mysterious director. Advertised as a drama, the movie seemed to ignore every fundamental rule of filmmaking, turning it into a hilarious reel of unrelated, chaotic and overacted scenes. ‘The Room’ gained a cult following over the years and is now on par with ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ as one of the most popular midnight screenings across the country.
In 2013, Greg Sestero, the co-star of the movie, wrote a book detailing his experience on the set titled ‘The Disaster Artist – My life inside The Room’ in which James Franco has adapted into his newest film. Like Wiseau, Franco is the film’s director, producer and main actor. However, unlike ‘The Room’, ‘The Disaster Artist’ Franco’s adaptation is said to create enough buzz for this fall’s award season and the Oscars.
The talent involved had a great time filming this movie. Everyone seems to be a great enthusiast about ‘The Room,’ a fact revealed in the introduction where stars like Zach Braff, J.J. Abrams, Kristen Bell, Adam Scott and Danny McBride tell us why they are members of ‘The Room’ cult. The film then begins, in 1998 San Francisco where an inexperienced but ambitious actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) meets the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) at an acting class. Impressed by how blatantly ignorant Wiseau is about his acting abilities, Sestero befriends him, and eventually they move to Los Angeles to boost their non-existent careers. Since Wiseau has a bottomless bank account—also one of the mysteries around the real counterpart—he and Sestero decide to make their own movie after continuously failing their auditions. Eventually, Wiseau’s decisions as producer and director become more erratic, straining the production’s completion and the duo’s relationship.
Entirely based on real events, James Franco captures a story on celluloid that couldn’t be more fantastic. Wiseau’s denial of reality is almost impressive to behold, and Franco plays the role with amazing precision. The mysterious accent (the real Wiseau claims to be from New Orleans), quirky gestures and a sleepy eye, Franco practically becomes Tommy Wiseau. As a method actor, he stayed in character throughout production: Franco, playing Wiseau, is directing a film about Wiseau trying to helm a film that he will also star in. You can’t get any more meta than ‘The Disaster Artist.’
But what sounds complicated is broken into digestible pieces by the film. ‘The Disaster Artist’ even works if viewers haven’t seen ‘The Room’ first; the filmmakers have meticulously replicated key scenes in the original film. Still, a session with ‘The Disaster Artist’ calls for a session with ‘The Room,’ so it was only logical that both films were played back-to-back at SXSW, only parted by an intermission, where the Franco brothers answered questions together with Seth Rogen who starred in it and is also one of the producers of the film.
‘The Disaster Artist’ also includes Zac Efron, Jacki Weaver, Hannibal Buress, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Alison Brie, along with cameos from Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Bryan Cranston and the real Wiseau-Sestero pair. Franco makes it look so easy in making his cast channel the level of acting in ‘The Room.’ Only in the end of the film, when scenes from the original and ‘The Disaster Artist’ are juxtaposed side by side, do viewers get to see the degree of precision that Franco exhibits and demands from his cast. The film also receives some glorious finishing touches from the set designers, who have rebuilt the original’s green-screen sets, and the makeup and costume departments, which have recreated the original’s silly work and accurately turned Franco into the longhaired, self-proclaimed vampire Wiseau.
This movie is perfect—an unbelievable-yet-true story about filmmaking and friendship, featuring the stars who are involved in the story and flawless filmmaking. Franco delivers a career-best performance on both sides of the camera. It is the funniest movie that I’ve seen in quite a while, and I can only recommend you watching this as soon as it comes out.
The film was screened at SXSW as a work-in-progress screening, but as Seth Rogen remarked after standing ovations “I guess we’re done.” However, a starting date has not been set for this movie, but you should definitely keep an eye out—it’s worth it!
The Disaster Artist (2017)
directed by James Franco
written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
with James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Allison Brie, Jackie Weaver, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Zoey Deutch, Hanniball Buress, Josh Hutcherson, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Brian Cranston
cinematography by Brandon Trost
98 minutes, not yet rated
Stay in your seats for the credits, because James Franco added a funny post-credit-scene, don’t miss it!