Is it any good?
You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!
The Disaster Artist is your typical movie about two guys heading to LA to make their dreams come true. Except one of those people is Tommy Wiseau. This is an unflinching portrait of one of the most enigmatic personalities that may have ever existed.
Greg Sestero was a naive, young, good looking guy who just wanted to be an actor. His ambition was limited by his lack of talent and nervousness at being on stage. His life would forever be changed when he met Tommy Wiseau, a completely fearless (some would say delusional… many would say delusional) older (?) man with similar dreams. Tommy and his mysterious fortune (and mysterious past) give Greg the opportunity to move to LA to pursue stardom. When the movies don’t come calling, they decide to make their own. And what they made was The Room.
For those who have not seen The Room, it is a cult classic and probably the worst movie of all time. It makes Plan 9 from Outer Space look like Star Wars. And just like Plan 9, The Room was the singular vision of a terrible filmmaker.
This movie asks us to consider what it is that makes The Room a particular work of art. Batman V Superman is a bad movie. It was made by Hollywood people who have millions of dollars, and know how to make movies. Dragonball Evolution is a bad movie. It was made by Hollywood people who know how to make movies, but really don’t care to do so. The Room was made by a man with a surprising budget that may have never seen a movie and does not understand human interaction, behavior, or interior life.
Who is Tommy Wiseau? The movie does not attempt to demystify him. It keeps him just as much of a black box in the beginning as at the end. We only get small glimpses into what makes him tick. But we do get to see the (misplaced) passion that made him the sort of filmmaker that would create The Room. He doesn’t really get human behavior. He doesn’t really get the fact that other people exist and have interior lives. He doesn’t really know what makes movies good, what makes acting good, what makes people like things. And with all that, he created a movie. The movie is a reflection of him.
Just as The Room is a reflection of Wiseau, The Disaster Artist is a reflection of director and lead actor James Franco. He truly appreciates The Room in all its weirdness and, as a filmmaker and actor, probably appreciates Tommy Wiseau more than any of us could. He brings us into this world at a safe distance. While we are free to laugh at the man, we are also asked to actually contemplate him. Wiseau’s insouciance is the source of his charisma, and also the reason why he is quite awful at acting, writing, and directing. But why is he this way? He is a real person with real dreams and real feelings. He isn’t simply a joke. And while the movie provides no real answers, it gives us a space to ask the questions.
And what does it say about Franco? That he wants us to see the art that artists make. Even if it isn’t good. Even if we don’t like the art or the artist. Art has value, just as life has value.
Is it possible to say that the acting is good when its emulating acting that was SO bad? Yes. I think it is possible. James Franco does a really good job as Tommy Wiseau. He really takes on his accent and mannerisms. Even his posture is totally correct. From behind, with his hair and his slight hunch, he looks REALLY like Wiseau. To a certain extent he is still always James Franco, but he does disappear and become Tommy on the screen.
Wow. I went this far without mentioning that on a really basic level this movie is just really funny. Tommy Wiseau sucks at making movies. And we can all understand what it is that makes him so. So seeing it onscreen is HILARIOUS! Just as it is in The Room. And knowing that movie just makes The Disaster Artist even more funny. We see behind the scenes just how skeptical everyone else was of every questionable decision Wiseau made. And The Room is even more hilarious when you consider that there were real people that understood how it was going wrong, but it just kept going anyway.
Watch The Disaster Artist. Or don’t. It’s a movie about how passion is its own reward. But I think it’s worth your time to reward the people that made this one.