The Disaster Artist
dir James Franco
scr Scott Neustadter, Michael H Weber
prd James Franco, Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen, Vince Jolivette, James Weaver
with Dave Franco, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron, Paul Scheer, Jacki Weaver, Megan Mullally, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith
release US 1.Dec.17, UK 6.Dec.17
17/US Warner 1h43
The Disaster Artist
Let's make a movie: Dave and James Franco

rogen graynor brie

See also:
The Room
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Disaster Artist This is the story of Tommy Wiseau's iconic 2003 movie The Room, so notoriously terrible that a cult following has grown around it. Based on the book by its star Greg Sestero (with Tom Bissell), this film is directed with a striking attention to detail by James Franco, who also plays Wiseau as a delusional jerk worth admiring for pursuing his dream.

In late-1990s San Francisco, Wiseau and Sestero (James and Dave Franco) meet in acting class and make a pact to encourage each other to strive for success. Moving to Los Angeles, they struggle to find work. So Wiseau, who has a mysterious fortune and refuses to admit his age or nationality, decides to fund a movie with Greg starring opposite him. With money no problem, they hire a cast and crew (including Rogen, Graynor, Scheer, Weaver, Efron and Hutcherson), who are incredulous as Wiseau demonstrates no discernible skill at either acting or directing.

The salient point is that, no matter how bad The Room is, Wiseau actually got it made. And over the following years, its late-night interactive screenings have made it financially successful. Of course, this leaves an elephant in the room, as it were: what if someone who actually had talent had the money to sidestep reluctant studios and achieve their dream? Franco never quite addresses this idea, but his admiration for Wiseau is clear.

That said, he portrays him unflinchingly as a reprehensible narcissist. Yes, he's funny too, mainly because of how he mangles English. But he callously ignores those around him, blaming them for his own failings while spinning a false narrative around himself, which can't help but echo a certain top-tier world leader at the moment. Opposite him, Dave Franco is superbly nuanced as a decent, loyal friend, pushed to the brink by Wiseau's excesses. And the all-star cast around them is solid, including a blinding array of witty cameos.

Along the way, there are indulgent touches, including a greatest hits structure that jumps from one jaw-dropping moment to the next, as well as a closing sequence of scenes from The Room shown side-by-side with Franco's immaculate re-enactions. But it's nonstop fun, as well as a smart, sassy look at the Hollywood machine, something that's amplified by the outrageously clever casting. And in the end, it might make us fall in love with movies a little bit more, especially those that don't quite hit the mark.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 1.Dec.17

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
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The Room
dir-scr-prd Tommy Wiseau
with Tommy Wiseau, Greg Sestero, Juliette Danielle, Philip Haldiman, Carolyn Minnott, Robyn Paris, Mike Scott, Dan Janjigian, Kyle Vogt, Greg Ellery
release 27.Jun.03, UK 24.Jun.09
03/US 1h39
The Room
Oh, hi Mark! Wiseau and Sestero

See also:
The Disaster Artist
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Room Often cited as one of the worst films ever made, this hilariously inept romantic drama has developed a cult following. And indeed, while actor-filmmaker Tommy Wiseau displays a vague awareness of how cinema works, the film is a shambolic mess. The script and editing are so choppy that it takes a bit of effort to piece the plot together. So it seems almost accidental that some of the actors find moments of authenticity along the way.

In San Francisco, banker Johnny (Wiseau) is preparing to marry his girlfriend Lisa (Danielle). But she has decided that she's in love instead with Johnny's best pal Mark (Sestero), who doesn't resist her advances too strenuously. Lisa confesses this to her mother (Minnott) and her friend Michelle (Paris), but hides it from Johnny as he plans their wedding next month. Johnny's young charge Denny (Haldiman), who has his own issues, knows something's up but not what it is. And it all comes to a head at Johnny's birthday party.

The screenplay never tries to provide any context to the characters or situations, so pretty much everything that happens feels randomAs does the odd juxtaposition of San Francisco scenery with the super-fake interior sets. It's also edited together in a blindlingly convoluted way. As an actor, Wiseau is comically stiff, like a melted waxwork of a young John Travolta. He speaks in a slurry accent and adds inexplicable reactions in each scene, sometimes bursting into sudden melodramatic excess.

And the direction isn't any smoother. Continuity was clearly never a consideration, and story elements are simply ridiculous (such as the fact that Johnny happens to have a blank cassette tape in his shirt pocket, then has a cassette player in every room). It seems impossible that no one in the cast or crew told Wiseau that nothing about this story makes sense. And yet, even though it's downright awful, the film has a strangely mesmerising charm to it. It's not surprising that it has become a midnight classic.

Note that I made the deliberate decision to wait until after I saw James Franco's making-of comedy The Disaster Artist (based on Sestero's book) to watch The Room. It's almost eerie how Franco recreates Wiseau's odd physicality and shabby production values, including his clumsily soft-porn approach to sex scenes. And it's rather cool that, just as The Room centres on the friendship between Johnny and Mark, Franco's film focusses on the bromance between Wiseau and Sestero.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 3.Dec.17

© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall