Quick Pitch: The Disaster Artist is based on the true story about the making of The Room, a film revered as the most enjoyable bad movie ever made (often called the Citizen Kane of bad movies). The Room has achieved cult status and is screened in theaters throughout the world. The writer/director/star of The Room, Tommy Wiseau, is a man of unknown origins and wealth. In the pursuit of fame, this man leads those who follow him to disaster. The film opens with Kristen Bell, Adam Scott, Keegan-Michael Key, and several others explaining why such a bad movie like The Room can be so beloved. This allows those unfamiliar with the film to realize what an impact the movie has had.
I’ve been waiting for The Disaster Artist for quite some time. Almost four years ago, director and actor James Franco announced he had acquired the life rights of Tommy Wiseau as well as the rights to the biography The Disaster Artist, written by Greg Sestero, who starred in The Room. As a fan of The Room, I was very excited to hear this. James Franco has a history of making bizarre and artsy projects for some time, so there was no one better to create a movie about one of the weirdest film production stories. (Similarly, he has acquired the film rights to Rant by Chuck Palahniuk, one of my favorite books that’s right up his alley as a filmmaker.)
The plot of the movie is fairly straightforward. Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) meets Tommy Wiseau (James) at an acting class. Seeing this man’s passion and bizarre performance, Greg asks Tommy for help. I might be overusing the word “bizarre” here, but if you’ve seen The Room, you’ll forgive me. It is not long before Greg and Tommy become friends and move to Los Angeles together to pursue acting. Throughout the film, quite a brotherhood develops between these two (James’ casting of his brother Dave is very appropriate). When the two of them can’t get work, Tommy decides to make a movie that starts the both of them. As the movie begins to film, Tommy’s increasingly erratic behavior causes those around him to lose their own sanity. Greg must choose whether to be loyal to his friend or to do his own thing.
The other casting choices were a little distracting. While you’d expect frequent Franco collaborator Seth Rogen to show up, there’s enough other cameos to convince me that the film’s $10 million dollar budget couldn’t afford them. There are so many other familiar faces in the film that you’ll probably say, “oh yeah, it’s that guy from the thing!” many times over. To list the names would the equivalent to indexing the entire cast on IMDb. Even Judd Apatow and Bryan Cranston make cameos. While it didn’t ruin anything, it certainly took me out of the movie a little.
I found The Disaster Artist to be very respectful of The Room and Tommy Wiseau. It would be very easy for this to be a 104 minute mocking of a man’s vision, but anyone who’s had a dream will admire the passion behind it. James’ prosthetics were effective enough that one of my fellow moviegoers thought Tommy Wiseau played himself in this movie. The movie is a celebration of entrepreneurship, filmmaking, and friendship. Lastly, it’s a heartwarming story showing you that even disasters can yield good things.
As a movie: 7/10
As a celebration of a cult movie: 9/10