Movie Review : The Disaster Artist (2017)
I've seen Tommy Wiseau's accidentally iconic movie The Room two, maybe three times max. It hasn't gotten old for me yet and it's an experience that familiarity makes more enjoyable, like The Big Lebowski or personal favorite of mine Mallrats. The Room is deserving of everything it has going for itself: cult status, its successful tell-all book, pop culture stardom, you name it. But is it possible to love The Room too much? Because I believe James Franco does. His adaptation of Greg Sestero's tell-all The Disaster Artist is decent, but it's nowhere near as interesting as watching The Room again.
The Disaster Artist tells the story of the making of The Room, widely considered one of the best terrible movies of all-time. Greg Sestero (Dave Franco), a 19 years old budding actor with more looks than talent, befriends America's favorite alien Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in acting classes and the two decide to move to Los Angeles. To live the dream or whatever. Getting turned down over and over again in auditions because he's fucking weird, Tommy decides to write and direct his own movie. No one understands to this day how he paid for it, but a legend was born...
One of Fight Club's most famous quote is: "Everything's a copy, of a copy, of a copy," which a sleepless Edward Norton mutters over a photocopying machine. This is how I feel about The Disaster Artist. It's a movie about a movie that rips off American classics such as Rebel Without a Cause, in its own bizarre, idiosyncratic way. What makes The Room so interesting is the bizarre fusion of Tommy Wiseau's alien personality, influences that borderline on rip-off and the lack of technical knowledge that ruled over the production. There's none of that in The Disaster Artist. Its main calling card is a dude playing Tommy Wiseau. Another copy.
Perhaps what bugged me the most about The Disaster Artist is that it is framed as an underdog success story. Greg and Tommy, taking on the world and successfully creating an iconic movie despite Tommy being insane and all. The movie premiere at the end is depicted to be this revelatory moment, where a packed crowd discovers The Room wit great delight. In reality, was reported that there were several walkouts before the 30 minutes mark, but there's no mention of it here. Sure, The Room is financially and culturally successful today, but it worked its way up there. It initially failed so hard, it created its own paradigm.
I love The Room as much as the next person, but probably not as much as James Franco does. The Disaster Artist is not the first movie he directs solely because he enjoys the material it's based on and wants to star in it. It's slightly entertaining and better directed than most Franco projects, but it stands so pale next to The Room that it never really claims its own turf. By far, the most interesting moment in the movie is the post-credit scene where a Tommy Wiseau-played character interacts with Franco's interpretation of Wiseau. Otherwise, The Disaster Artist respectfully stands in The Room's shadow when it should've tried to make us see the cult classic in a new light.