SXSW 2017 Review: THE DISASTER ARTIST

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By Mark Saldana

Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)

In the world of cinema, there are some truly wonderful films that people love, and then there are some disastrously bad movies that people still love, perhaps even more than some of the greats.  Such is the case with Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 feature film The Room.  Wiseau’s laughably bad drama has gained a huge cult following with its fans hailing Wiseau as a modern-day Ed Wood.  Among the film’s biggest fans are some of Hollywood’s more successful comedic actors including Seth Rogen, James and Dave Franco.  These three actor/filmmakers have made an amazing movie that tells the bizarre and fascinating true story behind The Room and its idiosyncratic filmmaker Wiseau.   The result is a loving, but honest tribute to Wiseau and the people who helped him create one of the world’s worst, but nevertheless highly celebrated movies.

James Franco directs and stars as Tommy Wiseau, a strange, but endearing, aspiring actor in Hollywood.  In an acting class, Wiseau has a fateful meeting with another actor named Greg Sestero (Dave Franco).  The two men hit it off well and become good friends.  The two friends try to help each other out with their careers, but cannot get a break anywhere.  Fed up with his failure to find acting work, Wiseau decides to make his own movie.  After finishing a script he claims was inspired by Tennessee Williams, Wiseau and Sestero begin work on their film.  With no experience in filmmaking whatsoever, Tommy and Greg improvise along the way, but encounter multiple obstacles.  The film finally gets finished and released, but receives a different reaction from what they had originally expected.

With a screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, based on the book by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, James Franco has made a comedic masterpiece with The Disaster Artist.  Not since Tim Burton’s Ed Wood has there been a movie about the making of movie that is so thoroughly entertaining and captivating.   The story itself is an offbeat and hilarious one, but the writers, Franco, cast and crew do exceptional work in presenting the story with much heart and attention to detail.  In this movie, James Franco proves himself as a dual talent, as he not only directs what is probably his best film, but also delivers an award-worthy performance as Wiseau.

With the perfect makeup and hair, Franco seriously becomes the unmistakable Tommy Wiseau with his unusual, difficult to place, heavy accent, mannerisms, expressions and horrendous acting.  With several outstanding, mostly comedic, turns in his filmography, Franco takes his craft to a higher level with his performance here.  His brother Dave is no slouch either.  The younger Franco performs quite well as Wiseau’s best friend and creative partner Greg Sestero and the two brothers share a palpable chemistry onscreen.  The movie also can boast great performances by Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Effron, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, Allison Brie, among many cameos from the Franco brothers’ friends and colleagues.

The Francos and Seth Rogen presented a “work in progress” print of the movie at SXSW and received a standing ovation.  The audience obviously consisted mostly of fans of The Room, as a good amount of people understood some of the more subtle jokes and references.  It is one of my favorite movies of this year’s festival and might eventually remain in my top films for the year.  The movie is outstanding on its own, but does also make for a great companion piece to the movie that inspired it.  If the movie doesn’t achieve success at the box office, it is sure to become a cult classic.

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