Get ready for the film about ‘the worst movie ever made’ that wants to be the Best Picture of the year.
If you haven’t seen the participatory crowd-favourite phenomenon that is The Room (what are you doing with your life?) it really is worth your time. Made for a reported six million dollars a good fifteen years ago, Tommy Wiseau’s abysmally produced and wincingly hapless ‘drama’ about (the plot really doesn’t matter) the successful Johnny and his “future wife” Lisa has become a midnight favourite across the globe akin only to Rocky Horror.
Myself having shamefully and hilariously witnessed this travesty on no less than seven occasions dating back to (still among my favourites) a packed midnight screening at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, James Franco, having long been an ardent devotee, has now adapted supporting lead Greg Sestero’s very enjoyable and telling account of the film’s production, The Disaster Artist, into it’s own feature.
The Disaster Artist is, unlike its predecessor, a roundly excellent movie, shrewdly tapping in to the counter-intuitive appeal of the train wreck by depicting Wiseau (played by Franco) as an ultimately earnest, extremely driven individual who (mostly) barracks for his friends in the best of classic American tradition. The Disaster Artist and its inspiration clearly being painstaking labours of love, both, though more explicitly this much better film, speak volumes to the creative drive that underpins Hollywood and any like industry, the reflexive focus on filmmaking itself (ala La La Land, The Artist) proving ever-popular with filmic audiences and their purveyors alike.
A particular focus on James Dean speaks to but one dimension of the elusive Wiseau, unpacked here in some detail, that too elucidates coyly on the endearingly confounding genesis of this turkey that has since raked in the cash for the original’s Writer, Director, Producer and star. The predictable appearances by Wiseau and a host of other figures in some of the more meta innovations we are likely to see for some time are never overplayed and among The Disaster Artist’s best attributes.
Franco, in a performance that could warily have evinced purely mimical recreations of Wiseau’s particular mannerisms is joyously neither mocking nor perfunctory, adroitly capturing the, uniquely compelling figure in a showing that should deservedly merit awards attention. Should Franco in fact make it to the Oscars, he has indicated he will bring Wiseau with him, fulfilling that Director’s original intention in what will be Franco’s ultimate meta jibe at the industry. Drawing much from Sestero’s book, Wiseau’s depiction is at times both affectionate and none too glamorous, with Franco not infrequently portraying some of his more questionable decisions in an adaptation reportedly made with the blessing of the man himself that too apparently solicited his approval.
The likes of Seth Rogen, Alison Brie and Zac Efron are reliably good even if they are proffered limited screen time compared to their more central counterparts. Sparing in the blatant references it makes to The Room and showing surprisingly similar restraint in acknowledging the cultural phenomenon and practices it has begotten, The Disaster Artist can appreciably be consumed without knowledge of it’s predecessor, a feature newly-accustomed audiences will no doubt subsequently seek out.
The one drawback of the film, and also one of it’s greater assets, is the casting of brother Dave Franco as Sestero, who is front and centre throughout. Franco looks nothing like Sestero, which would not have been an issue save an attempt to render him unlike his usual self in a manner more distracting than necessarily conducive to a faithful recreation of events. While the casting of the siblings captures the warmish relationship between Wiseau and Sestero that has apparently continued with future collaborations, the particular dynamic in the original film between Wiseau’s Johnny and Sestero’s character Mark, namely the former’s evident jealousy and eventual frustration with the much younger, all-American figure, is not so apparent in the palpable on screen interplay between the close-knit brothers.
Not a sticking point but for the adaptation’s efforts to mirror much of The Room’s and its production’s own tensions throughout, there are surprising dimensions to one of the infamous production’s central dynamics and the on and off screen relationship between the pair which were not apparent nor could readily be inferred from the Francos’ repartee and respective characterisations.
A minor factor in an otherwise superb retelling, The Disaster Artist, as with its foil, emerges an atypical fan-favourite creation that duly merits repeat viewings.
The Disaster Artist is in cinemas from December 7
The Disaster Artist on Film Fight Club