Los Angeles is a multi-layered city. It is the cradle and the capital of the American cinema, and thus the birthplace of the world’s greatest stars, but also… a place where many delusional ‘artists’ try their luck. When Tommy Wiseau, a mysterious man, in 1998 befriended Greg Sestero in an acting class in San Francisco, not a single soul could have predicted that the couple would – in their attempt to conquer Hollywood – make the most spectacularly dreadful production in the history of the cinema: The Room.
Almost 20 years later, James Franco, an actor and a filmmaker, took on the task to direct the biographical comedy-drama depicting the story of Tommy and his escapades that included directing the disastrous feature. Franco merged humour, flawless acting and drama surprisingly well, and without any qualms, he decided to portray Tommy himself. But let’s start from the beginning…
Those who were ‘lucky’ enough to see The Room back in 2003 or at any of the later showings, know it to be a horrible production. Having said that, until now, no one – except those involved in bringing the project alive – was aware what really happened before, during and after the filming was wrapped – the action behind the scenes was an ostensible helter-skelter, both manic and comical.
The screenplay is based on Greg Sestero’s memoir The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, a book that achieved a small success of its own. Greg (an engaging performance by Franco’s brother Dave Franco) and Tommy (electrifying acting by James Franco) meet in an acting course run by Jean Shelton (Melanie Griffith) in San Francisco. They both have the same dream: to become great actors and have prosperous careers. While Greg is shy and unable to find his own voice, Tommy is bold, outspoken and full of himself. Surprisingly, the two form a strong friendship with Tommy promising Greg the glamour and fame. Against everything and everyone, Greg’s mother (Megan Mullally) in particular, the friends set off to conquer La La Land, believing that the American Dream is there for the taking.
In LA, Greg tries to find a job with various talent agencies, while Tommy is quickly rejected due to his age (does anyone even know how old he is?), his unusual appearance and bizarre accent. After a disastrous first few months in the city, the two friends decide to set the rules to the game themselves; they are determined to make their own film. Tommy writes the script, directs and produces it and is the star of the film. With a professional equipment, an experienced crew and the not-so-professional cast, Tommy and Greg set off to rock Hollywood’s socks off. But is anyone really prepared for Tommy’s directing ‘skills’, his vision and his acting?
The Disaster Artist premiered in 2017 at SXSW in Texas, and received mostly favourable reviews from the audience and critics. It also proved that a film does not need to be shown or awarded at prestigious festivals to get noticed; this intimate biographical comedy-drama wowed the Golden Globes jury and has been nominated in two categories: Best Actor – Musical or Comedy for James Franco and Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.
The Disaster Artist combines the biographical work and the convention of the film about a film with a great precision; the characters are credible and their actions bring out many a friendly chuckle. The comedy is, in fact, the greatest strength of the film and it reaches the maximum in its climax scene. After watching The Disaster Artist, there is no doubt that Franco’s own journey into directing has gained momentum. His achievement is made even greater because he – just like Tommy Wiseau for The Room – plunged into this feature by directing it, producing it and taking on the lead role, and he worked on it along with his friends (Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen) and family; even High School Musical’s Zac Efron got a tiny spotlight in the film.
The Disaster Artist shows not only Tommy’s story, but also showcases James Franco’s performance and directorial skills. His portrayal of Wiseau is sublime! Franco got rid of his well-known gleam in the eyes and that sexy grin, changed his accent and turned into the ‘extraordinary’ Tommy. The film is also a portrait of a heartening friendship and the infamous American Dream that many people try to achieve. And so, while The Room was the worst film ever made, The Disaster Artist is a remarkable feature.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © A24 and Warner Bros. Pictures