The Disaster Artist is a gift this holiday season to fans of the 2003 independent film The Room, a movie so dreadful it became known as the “Citizen Kane of bad movies.” Unbeknownst to me (until recently), The Room also became a cult classic. Now that I’ve seen it, I totally get it. The Room is so bad, it’s good, especially if you watch it with a raucous crowd, plastic spoons, footballs, and printed instructions (see photos below). It’s also essential viewing for anyone hoping to fully appreciate and understand the bizarre brilliance that is The Disaster Artist, a satirical yet fact-based film that explores how the very bad movie The Room came to be made in the first place. James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, the aspiring filmmaker with an indiscernible accent who wrote, directed, produced/financed and starred in The Room. Franco and Wiseau are like kindred spirits in the quirky Hollywood landscape, so the casting is ideal – assuming you can embrace the quirk. If not, you’ll surely miss the point.
The Disaster Artist is based on a popular tell-all book, “The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made” by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. Sestero was Wiseau’s best friend and co-star in The Room. The unusual bond between Wiseau (James Franco) and Sestero (Dave Franco) powers the heart and soul of The Disaster Artist. The film is, at its core, a celebration of friendship, vision, delusion, and faith. It’s funny and tragic and weird and artistic in its own unique way, just like the man – and the movie – that The Disaster Artist mocks and glorifies.
In The Room, Wiseau plays Johnny, an investment banker who lives with his manipulative fiancé Lisa in a San Francisco townhouse. Lisa gets bored and decides to cheat on Johnny with his best friend Mark (Sestero). Johnny finds out, and freaks out. That’s about it. Various other characters come and go – to chat, make out, or toss a football around. The dialogue is atrocious. The movie has major continuity issues. Shots go out of focus. Lines are dubbed in – badly. And the sex scenes – and accompanying score – are so repetitive that audience members are inclined to clap along to the beat.
In making The Disaster Artist, the filmmakers recreated a bunch of scenes from The Room. The clips are shown side-by-side during the closing credits and they are hysterically spot-on. Some of the best imitation of bad acting you’ll ever see.
Nobody seems to know where Tommy Wiseau actually came from, or where he got his money. He spent millions making his disasterpiece and is totally cool with it. The fact that The Room became a cult hit that spawned a book that spawned a major motion picture that a lot more people may actually see… well, that’s just icing on the cake. He’s livin’ the dream. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see James Franco at the Oscars this year. Not as a host (thank goodness), but more likely walking the red carpet with Tommy. Oh Hai, Academy!
Arty Chick weighs in: This is without a doubt one of the oddest stories in Hollywood. I remember when I was living in LA, seeing the billboard for The Room over La Brea and wondering what it was all about. This movie tells it but leaves the mystery of Wiseau intact. One wonders if he has another cinematic foray in his future, now that he is BFFs with Franco. Definitely worth a watch. I have yet to see the original, but it is making the rounds now and I hope to go soon to complete the experience.